Photo credit: David Snyder
According to the report, malnutrition has become “the new normal,” and the study describes the significant human and economic toll of undernutrition and obesity.
The report states that the world is not doing enough to combat malnutrition, and that nearly half of the countries surveyed have significant levels of undernutrition or overweight or obese adults. Malnutrition is by far the greatest risk factor to the global burden of disease: every single country in the world is facing a major public health challenge because of it.
Yet, spending on nutrition can yield immense returns. For every $1 spent to prevent babies from growing up physically and mentally stunted, a nation eventually saves $16, the report found.
Over the past decade, global momentum around nutrition as a key contributor to sustainable development has significantly increased. At least 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain indicators that rely heavily on nutrition. Improved nutrition acts as a platform for progress in health, education, employment, female empowerment and poverty and inequality reduction.
The report also shows that the health and education of women directly affects the magnitude of malnutrition. For example, mothers who give birth when they are younger than 18 have an increased risk of having stunted children – or children who have low height for their age – and children are less likely to be stunted if their mother has secondary education.
The report also emphasizes that it is important to work with citizens and civil society. Development happens in communities, and it is in communities where women, men and youth can discover their voice, assert their rights, and mobilize action to achieve their aspirations.
The report’s five “calls to action” include encouraging the global community to make the political choice to end all forms of malnutrition, investing more and allocating better, collecting the right data to maximize investments, investing in carrying out proven and evidence-informed solutions and tackling malnutrition in all its forms.
The report also encourages all countries to make and measure SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) commitments to nutrition, depending on each country’s nutritional context, and to determine what it will take to eradicate malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.
Although we are currently off track in regards to reaching our 2030 target, the report praises seven countries for making significant strides towards the end of malnutrition: Nepal for fewer stunted children, Suriname for fewer underweight children, Jamaica for fewer obese children, Peru for less female anemia and more breastfeeding, Nauru for fewer adults with a body mass index (BMI) over 25, North Korea for fewer adults with a BMI over 30 and Israel for less adult diabetes.