China’s Changing Diet: How to Turn the Tide

Part 1 and Part 2 of the China’s Changing Diet blog series portrayed how individual and systematic dietary changes impact health and the global environment. Reversing trends takes time, but throughout history, the collective actions of committed individuals have had far-reaching impacts. In this section, we will discuss some changes already happening in China.

Chinese-language Meatless Monday poster

Chinese-language Meatless Monday poster

Moving the dial, motivation and Meatless Monday

Whether Dietary Guidelines can effectively spur diet changes is a difficult thing to assess. In China as in most countries, the rapid shift toward sugars, oils, meat and processed foods is counter to their past and present Dietary Guidelines. However, Dietary Guidelines can support the conversation and guide promotions toward diet changes. Much of the impact of the DG relies upon publicity, tools and education that follow their release. Read More >

China’s Changing Diet: Environment and Health Impacts

In Part 1 of the China’s Changing Diet blog series, we provided an overview of the recent shifts in how Chinese citizens eat and live as a result of economic growth, urbanization and food availability. In the following section, we will discuss the local and global impacts of these shifts and how Chinese health experts have addressed these through the newly-revised Chinese Dietary Guidelines.

Diet changes have lasting impacts on health and the environment locally and globally

In China, the incidence of obesity and its related complications have increased rapidly alongside dietary changes. The overall prevalence of overweight and obesity among Chinese people was increased by 38.6% and 80.6% respectively during the period of 1992-2002.[i] In 2012, 30.1% of adults were overweight and 11.9% were obese. 9.6% of youth were overweight and 6.4% were obese.[ii] Taking into account the sheer size of China’s population, over one fifth of all one billion obese people in the world now come from China.[iii]

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Nutrition Programs: How Many Spending Cuts Can We Afford?

U.S. National Archives | 1941

In the midst of economic instability, it’s become clear that funding for major federal programs will be subject to cuts, and nutrition programs are no exception. Perhaps cuts are unavoidable, but it is essential that we examine their potential impact on public health.

According to a recent USDA Economic Research Service report, more than 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, were food insecure in 2009, meaning they were uncertain of having enough food or unable to acquire enough food for their household members. Food insecurity and hunger can have far-reaching consequences—numerous studies suggest that children in food-insecure households have higher risks of health and development problems than children in otherwise similar food-secure households. Any changes to these nutrition programs must not undermine the safety net they provide for millions of Americans. Read More >

Meeting local needs in a movement for global change

In addressing far-reaching global issues like public health, nutrition, social justice and the environment, the road to creating positive change in these areas often begins in our own neighborhood.

Baltimore City, home to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the School of Public Health, suffers from stark disparities in access to healthy foods.  A 2008 study found predominantly black and low-income neighborhoods offered significantly fewer options for healthy foods than their predominantly white and higher-income counterparts.  This phenomenon is not unique to our city, and the downstream effects to conditions like obesity and diabetes are all too familiar among low-income and minority neighborhoods across the nation.

There is, in the eyes of some, a touch of irony in the proximity between the country’s premier school of public health and some of the most severe nutritional and health disparities.  A converse perspective, however, highlights an opportunity – and a responsibility – to bring the school’s ample faculty of mind, energy and capital to bear upon these concerns.  A strong company of faculty, staff and students, working alongside community leaders, businesses and laypersons, has been continually engaged in a concerted movement to meet the nutritional and health needs of a city that hungers for genuine sustenance.

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Vilsack Visits the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Meeting

I was privileged to spend the past few days at the Inaugural Meeting of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), a well-organized group of stakeholders from around the country ranging from farmers to policy wonks (who are sometimes one in the same) working in coalition on important issues. In addition to learning an incredible amount from this crew, I was thrilled to meet dozens of NSAC members eager to see public health take a larger, more active role in drawing the links between sustainable agriculture and health. I was also encouraged that Secretary Vilsack took the time visit to the NSAC Meeting. Read More >