203576 Eat, drink, and deplete? Long-term threats to health, environment and food systems, and food security policies needed to reverse them

Monday, November 9, 2009: 9:10 AM

Patrick Webb, PhD , Member of Steering Committee of the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition; Former Chief of Nutrition WFP; Academic Dean, Tufts University, Boston, MA
The greatest long-term public health threat facing the world's population relates to deficient diets. Water and energy depletion synergistically contribute to this third crucial resource gap: food. Food production is a major consumer of water and fuel, but it represents in itself a major source of energy—the nutrient-base for all human activity. In the United States, food production is responsible for 11% of total national energy use and 17% of fossil fuel use. Globally, agriculture is responsible for >70% of all water usage--far more than industrial or household sources. Climate change contributes to the depletion of such resources and converges with natural disasters and human-made crises to exacerbate malnutrition globally. Attention is needed to national policies that address the multiple crises of resource depletion and promote forms of agriculture which improve access to diets of sufficiency quality and quantity. Both prongs are needed, supported by appropriate research and effective investments. Public health professionals can, and should, be at the forefront of interdisciplinary conversations on global food security, as it links inextricably to dialogues on health (and emerging diseases) and environment (and climate change). Human health underpins, and is underpinned by, a healthy environment and healthy food systems. As the problems are inextricably linked, solutions require us to think outside of disciplinary silos.

Learning Objectives:
1. Assess the importance of links among deficiencies in water, energy and food in their individual and collective impacts on human health. 2. Describe how the recent world food price, fuel and financial crisis have distorted agriculture and trade agendas. 3. Discuss potential impacts of climate change on health and food security in coming decades.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I teach on issues of food policy, international nutrition and disaster management to graduate students in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. I have served 6 years in senior roles in the United Nations dealing with global issues raised in my talk. I have published more than 45 peer-reviewed publications on many issues relating to the topics dealt with in this panel.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.