Global Nutrition Crisis: What in the World Is Going On?

William F. Balistreri, MD


September 10, 2019

In This Article

Undernutrition, Obesity, Climate Change: A Perfect Storm

The third report[4] had its origins in the Lancet Commission on Obesity, a multinational effort focused on this foundational risk factor, which carries an estimated annual global economic cost of $2 trillion, or 2.8% of the world's gross domestic product. After deliberation, however, the commission expanded its scope beyond obesity to include two other global pandemics: undernutrition and climate change. The commission wrote that together, this "global syndemic" (or synergy of epidemics) represents "the paramount health challenge for humans, the environment, and our planet in the 21st century."

They state that the major systems driving the global syndemic are food and agriculture, transportation, urban design, and land use. In an effort to provide common solutions to these combined crises, the authors draw a clear line linking obesity with undernutrition and climate change into the single syndemic framework.

The Commission concluded that the major beneficial effects on planetary health could be derived from endeavors that simultaneously address two or all three of these epidemics. They outlined comprehensive actions to address obesity within the context of the global syndemic to achieve the broad, desired global outcomes of human health and well-being, ecological health and well-being, social equity, and economic prosperity.


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