Uppsala Health Summit

Commitments for Nutrition Matters: Interview with Professor Corinna Hawkes, key-note speaker at Uppsala Health Summit 2016

2016-09-14

Corinna HawkesFour questions to Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy, City University of London

You are the co-chair of the Global Nutrition Report, which is issued each year to raise awareness and track progress on malnutrition in the world. What were the key findings this year?

The Global Nutrition Report is a report that monitors progress on malnutrition in all its forms. The 2016 report showed that while there has been some progress in addressing some forms of malnutrition, progress is too slow and in some areas - notably obesity and anemia - there is scarcely any progress at all. It also showed that to be malnourished is very, very common. Many countries -  57 out of the 129 for which we have data -- experience serious burdens of both undernutrition and overweight/obesity. But we also found that change can happen: political commitment is the key ingredient is addressing malnutrition. It can be done if people commit to it.

multiple burdens

What is your top general advice to policy makers contemplating how to most effectively address childhood obesity?

To tackle malnutrition, whether is stunting or obesity, it really will require a commitment on a large scale, both on the local and the international level. It takes a comprehensive approach - tackling all aspects of the problem.  My advice is very simple: assess the problem, look at the causes, and make the choice to implement actions at all levels to change it. It´s not rocket science. But nutrition is political, and that is complicated. So the other piece of is to have champions and movements who don’t allow those responsible to get away with not doing enough. That’s one of the roles of the Global Nutrition Report.

At Uppsala Health Summit in October, you will speak about the double burden of malnutrition which describes the problem that societies and individuals face when undernutrition and over nutrition co-exist –across the life course in individuals and across different segments of the population. In your view, what are the most important policy interventions for countries that undergo nutrition transitions? What should their priority be in order to halt the development towards a double burden of malnutrition?

It is very important that we see the “double burden” holistically. It´s not about having obesity on one side and then an undernutrition problem on the other. Countries undergoing the nutrition transition should take a “double duty” approach: address undernutrition but make sure actions are implemented in such a way that they also reduce the risk of obesity in the future; invest in actions that have co-benefits for people at risk of any form of malnutrition.

This is not done at the moment at all. Yet it is a really essential change that needs to happen if we are going to tackle the nutrition transition problem. In the next Global Nutrition Report (2017) we are going to take a deeper dive into double duty actions, set out the concept and do the analysis to identify how countries can best move forward.

Malnutrition graph
Number of countries at various stages of progress against the global targets on nutrition,
Global Malnutrition Report 2016

Finally, Could you please share some of your expectations for Uppsala Health Summit?

I look forward to intellectually-stimulating looking presentations and discussions…and moving towards the how. We know what we can be done, we need to talk about how we can do it. This continued push towards implementation of effective action is key.

Thank you.