Every year, unhealthy diets cause 11 million deaths and 4,20,000 more people die from unhealthy diets, according to the United Nations. In addition, unhealthy diets lead to chronic diseases that cause suffering and weigh heavily on the budgets of all countries.
To deal with this problem, five specialised United Nations agencies, namely World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), on May 13 launched a coalition calling for action to provide healthy and affordable diets for all from sustainable food systems.
“The coalition will help countries achieve their human health and environmental sustainability goals, achieving a real win for people, climate and nature,” the WFP said.
Members of the Coalition of Action for Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems (HDSFS) for all have pointed out that some 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet and that unhealthy eating habits are linked to six of the top ten risk factors for the global burden of disease.
In addition, undernutrition constitutes a violation of the human right to food and continues to generate social and health inequalities.
The HDSFS brings together governments, UN agencies, civil society organisations, academic institutions and social movements.
UN agencies said current food systems are making people sick and called for transformation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The agencies reiterated that health, nutrition and environmental sustainability must be at the heart of transforming food systems.
Healthy diets in a sustainable food system are food consumption patterns that promote health and prevent disease. But to be widely consumed, healthy foods must be available, affordable, accessible and appealing to everyone.
They must also be produced and distributed in a way that guarantees decent work and protects the planet, soil, water and biodiversity.
The coalition’s vision is to mobilise and support collective action to achieve the goal of healthy diets for all from sustainable food systems.
The HDSFS will work as a “coalition of the willing”, serving as a platform for coordinated action on healthy diets from sustainable food systems through which countries can share experiences, champion policy actions, and gain support, information and inspiration.
As urgent action is needed in policies, practices, availability of data, and resource allocation, the coalition’s work will be centred around three main areas: mobilising stakeholders to align action across food systems, facilitating peer-to-peer learning between countries, and managing special projects on integrating nutrition, health and sustainability through food.
So far, 16 nations and the European Commission are “frontrunner countries” in the HDSFS.