The Report of the Lancet Commission on Obesity demonstrates that the pandemics of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change represent the paramount challenge for humans, the environment and our planet.
Globally, approximately two billion people are overweight or obese, while two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, and 815 million people are chronically undernourished.
Malnutrition in all its forms, including undernutrition, obesity, and other dietary risks for non-communicable diseases, is the biggest cause of ill-health and premature death globally. In the near future, the health impacts of climate change are likely to significantly exacerbate this high health burden. These three pandemics—obesity, undernutrition, and climate change—represent ‘The Global Syndemic’ that affects most people in every country and region worldwide.
The Lancet Commission on Obesity published in 2019, provides recommendations to reduce obesity and undernutrition that may also be beneficial for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
We contributed to the Commission by providing expertise in food systems thinking and the complex interactions between agriculture, environment, climate change, livelihoods, land use and nutrition.
The Commission finds that The Global Syndemic has common, underlying drivers in the food, transport, urban design, and land use systems, which in turn draw from the natural systems and are shaped by the policies, economic incentives and disincentives, and norms established through governance mechanisms.
To seriously address The Global Syndemic, the Commission recommends that action will be needed to address underlying societal, political, socio-economic, and commercial drivers.
The Commission considers these to be double-duty or triple-duty actions because they can influence multiple parts of the syndemic simultaneously. These actions include transport mode shifts, sustainable dietary guidelines, and in some circumstances changes to diet including reducing meat consumption.
The Commission recommends that such actions, which seek to re-orient major systems of food and agriculture, transport, urban design, and land use that drive The Global Syndemic, need to occur locally, nationally, and globally. Implementation of actions to address these deeper drivers is politically more difficult to achieve and their outcomes are more uncertain compared to downstream actions such as health promotion programs or healthcare service provision. However, their implementation is essential for transformative, systemic changes.
The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change
Contact Mario Herrero for more information.