World Health Organization/Europe is organizing several activities building up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit initiated by the United Nations Secretary-General. The activities provide novel ideas on how food systems can be more inclusive, responsible and healthy, while contributing to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Preceded by a gathering in Italy in July 2021, the culminating Summit will take place in New York, United States of America, in September 2021 in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly.
WHO/Europe proposes solutions for sustainable food systems
Around this landmark event, WHO/Europe aims to link the narrative connecting health and food systems with the noncommunicable disease (NCD) agenda. Food environments are to be recognized as major determinants of the NCD burden, and governments will need to work alongside communities to find healthy, sustainable and cost-efficient diets.
In this context, WHO/Europe is proposing a series of resources and solutions:
- food profiling models for healthy and sustainable diets;
- a data platform for modelling the impact of healthy and sustainable dietary patterns;
- a healthy and sustainable food procurement manual;
- data and evidence reviews on dietary shifts toward healthy and sustainable diets;
- data and tools to promote healthy digital food environments, including online food delivery systems;
- a food product reformulation manual; and
- a manual on systems thinking in practice.
These solutions will be brought to the table along with the important message that breastfeeding is the first sustainable and healthy food system. One of the first steps we can take to protect our children from overweight, obesity and associated NCDs is to breastfeed them exclusively during the first 6 months of their lives.
WHO/Europe will engage and support its Member States and partners in aligned efforts to apply evidence-based solutions and guidelines for improved nutrition, food safety, food systems and health.
Why do we need to focus on food systems?
Our current global food system is largely focused on providing enough calories to people, seeing food as a simple commodity. But with new health and ecological challenges ahead, we need to rethink this perspective.
The pandemic has revealed the fragility and inequity of today’s food systems, and the very real risk that they may fall apart, impacting millions of people. To bring positive changes to the world’s food systems in line with all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Summit will bring together key players from science, business, policy, health-care and academia to launch bold new actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes food.
Building up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit
To build up to the Summit, the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Office) is organizing a series of expert meetings on healthy and sustainable diets.
The first event, held in October 2019, was dedicated to investigating dietary patterns for health and sustainability. The second 2-day expert meeting will take place on 24 March 2021, and will focus on assessing the latest evidence and challenges faced by Member States in relation to healthy and sustainable diets.
WHO/Europe has also started developing 7 workstreams to strengthen actions at the national level. They range from new statistical models to estimate the impact of policies to food procurement manuals and tools to promote multisectoral actions using complex systems science.
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