Ending the Double Burden of Malnutrition: Addressing the Food and Health Nexus in the Sustainable Development Goals

Masahiko Iguchi, Tomoki Ehara, Eri Yamazaki, Tomohiro Tasaki, Naoya Abe, Seiji Hashimoto and Taro Yamamoto • 11-11-2014
Ending the Double Burden of Malnutrition: Addressing the Food and Health Nexus in the Sustainable Development Goals

A new Policy Brief on ending the double burden of malnutrition by addressing the food and health nexus in the Sustainable Development Goals.

To “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” is the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To achieve the “end hunger” target, we argue that a focus solely on the pursuit of economic growth is not sufficient, but a fair distribution of nutrition among people is also required to address issues of undernourishment and obesity. 

Although the proportion of undernourished people in developing countries has decreased from 24% in 1990 - 1992 to 14% in 2011 - 2013, the goal to halve the percentage of people suffering from hunger by 2015 will require further efforts. For instance, 162 million young children are still suffering from chronic undernutrition (UN 2014a).

In 2012, the UN Secretary General initiated the “Zero- Hunger Challenge”, which emphasized the dire need to end hunger. Recently, more attention has been directed towards addressing the double burden of malnourishment, which is defined as undernutrition and obesity occurring simultaneously in and among different population groups.

Obesity is recognized as a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is responsible for approximately 3.4 million adult deaths each year (WHO 2014). This number is on the rise in both developed and developing countries.

1. While the prevalence of undernourishment will decline by 2030 through various efforts by various stakeholders, eradicating undernourishment will not be achieved solely through economic growth.

2. Improvement in economic conditions for individuals and communities may lead to higher risks of obesity unless the issue is appropriately addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), correlating targets and indicators, and delivery of educational programmes to increase health literacy globally.

3. To approach ending the double burden of malnutrition and the challenge of dealing with undernourishment and obesity, more focus should be placed on eliminating food disparity. We recommend setting an ambitious nutritional distribution disparity target: to reduce the Interquartile Range (IQR) of the distribution of calorific intake by 50%.

Download Policy Brief #6 here.

Tags: Earth System Governance Project,food security and nutrition,food-health nexus,frameworks and conceptualizations,malnutrition,SDG conceptualization