Health – Nutrition
2018 Global Nutrition Report – Shining a light to spur action on nutrition
Development Initiatives Poverty Research Ltd.
2018: 161 pages
The 2018 Global Nutrition Report shares insights into the current state of global nutrition, highlighting the unacceptably high burden of malnutrition in the world. It identifies areas where progress has been made in recent years but argues that it is too slow and too inconsistent. It puts forward five critical steps that are needed to speed up progress to end malnutrition in all its forms and argues that, if we act now, it is not too late to achieve this goal. In fact, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do so.
2018 Global Nutrition Report reveals malnutrition is unacceptably high and affects every country in the world, but there is also an unprecedented opportunity to end it.
… Progress to date is simply not good enough
Significant steps are being made to address malnutrition. Globally, stunting among children under five years of age has fallen from 32.6% in 2000 to 22.2% in 2017. There has been a slight decrease in underweight women since 2000, from 11.6% to 9.7% in 2016. Yet, while there has been progress, it has been slow and patchy.
The 2018 assessment of progress against nine targets reveals only 94 of 194 countries are on track for at least one of the nine nutrition targets assessed. This means that most countries are significantly off-track on meeting all nine targets:
:: No country is on course to meet all nine targets.
:: Only five countries are on track to meet four of the nine targets – which is the most any country is on track for.
:: No country is on track to achieve the adult obesity target for men or women, nor reach the anaemia target.
:: Only 26 countries are on track to reach the target for women’s diabetes.
We are better equipped to end malnutrition.
The 2018 Global Nutrition Report highlights that solutions already exist but finds effective ideas are not being adopted at scale:
:: We now know more about what people eat, why it matters, and what needs to be done to improve diets. In Mexico, an evaluation of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax found that sales of targeted beverages fell by 9.7% across the population two years after the policy was implemented, compared with expected sales if it had not been.
:: New data is a game changer and can drive more effective action. Local-level data and action has been particularly effective. In 2012, Amsterdam faced an obesity crisis among young people. The city tracked childhood obesity in different districts and propelled the issue to the top of the agenda. In late 2012 ambitious targets were set. Actions are broken down by prevention (such as healthy urban design), cure (helping those already overweight) and facilitation (such as learning and research), and included: creating public drinking fountains, implementing restrictions on food advertising, and publishing guidance for healthy snacks in schools. Today, overweight and obesity prevalence in the city is levelling off.
:: We see examples of countries building multisectoral plans to deliver on their targets. In Tanzania a wide range of targets has been adopted – seven in all, including for stunting, anaemia and low birth weight. These targets form part of an ambitious five-year action plan to reduce multiple burdens of malnutrition. The plan was set up under the direct leadership of the Prime Minister’s office to reduce all forms of malnutrition associated with both deficiency and excess/imbalances. Its broad goal is to scale up high-impact interventions among the most vulnerable people, including children under five years of age, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women. It does this by calling for action across sectors, from social protection to education and food.
:: Governments are showing commitment and stepping up to lead action. The government of China is facing the second-largest undernourished population, with overweight and obesity levels rising at alarming rates and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes on the up. To address this, it has developed two plans with the potential to transform malnutrition in China. Healthy China 2030 (2016), with the direct involvement of the President of China, underlines significant political will to enhance the health status of Chinese citizens. A year later the government released a new National Nutrition Plan (2017–2030), with a range of malnutrition targets including stunting, obesity, anaemia, breastfeeding and folic acid deficiency among vulnerable people. The emerging nutrition governance system deserves credit for the political and administrative commitment to food and nutrition security, demonstrating what institutional coordination can achieve.
The world is off track but the opportunity to end malnutrition has never been greater, nor has the duty to act.
To translate solutions into action, the report’s authors urge critical steps in the following areas:
:: Breaking down existing silos to tackle malnutrition in all its forms;
:: Prioritizing and investing in data to identify key areas of action;
:: Scaling up and diversifying funding for nutrition programmes;
:: Immediately taking action on healthy diets by making healthy foods affordable across the globe;
:: Implementing more ambitious commitments that are designed for impact through SMART targets.