New Lancet report: The Global Syndemic: Uniting Actions to Address Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change
The Lancet has been busy. Last week, it published a blockbuster report on the need for worldwide dietary changes to improve human health and that of the environment. I posted about this EAT-Forum report on Friday.
Now, The Lancet releases yet another report, this one taking a unified approach to dealing with the three most important nutrition issues facing the world: Malnutrition (undernutrition), obesity, and the effects of our food production and consumption system on the environment and climate change—for which this report coins a new term: The Global Syndemic.
This report breaks new ground in identifying the food industry as one of three main barriers to ending this “Syndemic.” I’ve added the numbers for emphasis.
- Powerful opposition by  commercial vested interests,  lack of political leadership, and  insufficient societal demand for change are preventing action on The Global Syndemic, with rising rates of obesity and greenhouse gas emissions, and stagnating rates of undernutrition.
- New social movement for change and radical rethink of the relationship between policymakers, business, governance and civil society is urgently needed.
- The Commission calls for a global treaty to limit the political influence of Big Food (a proposed Framework Convention on Food Systems – modelled on global conventions on tobacco and climate change); redirection of US$5 trillion in government subsidies away from harmful products and towards sustainable alternatives; and advocacy from civil society to break decades of policy inertia.
Wow. This is telling it like it is—at long last. From the press release:
- A key recommendation from the Commission is the call to establish a new global treaty on food systems to limit the political influence of Big Food.
- The food industry’s obstructive power is further enhanced by governance arrangements that legitimise industry participation in public policy development, and the power that big corporations have to punish or reward governments by relocating investment and jobs.
- Regulatory approaches to product reformulation (eg. salt and sugar reduction), labelling and marketing to children are needed because industry-led, voluntary approaches have not been effective.
- The Press Release
- The Policy Brief
- The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission report – Boyd A Swinburn et al. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32822-8/fulltext
- Obesity needs to be put into a much wider context – Sabine Kleinert, Richard Horton, The Lancet https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)33192-1/fulltext
- Rethinking systems to reverse the global syndemic – Rachel Nugent, RTI International https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)33243-4/fulltext
- Transforming food systems for better health – José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)33249-5/fulltext
Additional press, posted January 30
Newswires (syndicated in international outlets):
- ‘Radical rethink’ needed to tackle obesity, hunger, climate: report – Agence France-Presse
- To fix climate change, fix the obesity and starvation epidemics, reports say – CNN
- Obesity, bad nutrition, climate change pose triple danger, commission says – Reuters
- Also covered by Xinhua, IANS.
- Public health experts call for global food treaty – Financial Times
- Take on food industry to beat malnutrition and obesity, says report – The Guardian
- Tackling obesity ‘needs treaty like climate change’ – The Times
- Also covered by BBC Radio 4, BBC 1 Breakfast, BBC News 24, The Economist (Espresso), The Guardian (Op-ed), The Telegraph, The Independent, Daily Mail.
- Report: ‘Radical Rethink’ Needed to Tackle Obesity, Hunger, Climate – Voice of America
- Big Food Blamed for Ills Far Beyond Flab in Sweeping Report – Bloomberg
- Want to fix obesity and climate change at the same time? Make Big Food companies pay. – Vox
- Also covered by Thomas Reuters Foundation, Devdiscourse.
Rest of world:
- Vested interests, misplaced economic incentive major drivers: Lancet report – Indian Express
- Obesity, malnutrition 2 sides of climate change – Hindustan Times
- Eat right to save the planet – Deccan Chronicle
- Also covered by El Pais, O Globo, The Wire, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Japan Times, New Zealand Herald, The Australian, El Confidential, Algemeen Dagblad, Nouvel Observateur.