Saturday, July 5, 2008

Biofuel, the food crises and the Dutch policy on healthful nutrition promotion

Today the Guardian summarizes a confidential, 'secret' report from the World Bank based on a careful analyses of the causes of the causes of the present food crisis, i.e. the growing shortages in and higher prices of food, that leads to undernutrition and hunger, especially in underdeveloped countries. The World Bank report contradicts claims made by the US government that greater demand for biofuels contributed only 3% to the raise in food prices. The World Bank report states that the demand for biofuel pushed food prices up by 75%. See

In the Netherlands, the minister of health has published his food and nutrition policy plan, called "health nutrition; from start to finish" ( In this plan the minister asks food producers and consumers to take their responsiblity, but the national government itself is not willing to do much. Two task forces will be formed to explore how food producers can reduce the salt and saturated fatty acid content of regular foodstuffs; information on food stuffs should be improved to enable consumers to make healthier choices. Food and nutrition experts as well as the Netherlands consumers organisation have expressed their disappointment with the published policy plans; they do not expect that implementation of these plans will make too much of a difference, given the voluntary nature of the measures that are proposed.

The policy plan also ask for a chance in nutrition education in the Netherlands, from a food-oriented approach, to a more total nutrition and dietary pattern oriented approach. However, one of the key recommendations is that the Dutch people should eat fish 2-3 times per week. This is clearly a food-based advise, and an advice that may be heart-healthy, but not very sustainable, given the worl-wide depletion of fish stocks because of over-fishing

Monday, June 30, 2008

VU Children’s city; a fantastic playground for hospitalized kids.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting VU Kinderstad, or in English: The VU University Medical Center’s VU Children’s city ( This ‘city’ is in fact a two story ‘playgroud’ on the two top floors of the VU University Hospital (
Prof. John Roord (, the chair of the VUmc Children’s hospital and one of VUmc’s Division heads, organised a tour of the Kinderstad for the members of VUmc’s board and the other heads of Divisions.
VUmc Kinderstad is meant for children who have to stay in hospital for a longer period. Kinderstad offers them and their parents the opportunity to leave the hospital setting to enjoy a range of play and entertainment activities, from virtual racing in a Spijker sports car (, enjoying video’s from and writing directly to the Ajax soccer team ( players, surfing the internet, ‘flying’ in an almost real-life KLM airplane, making radio shows, as well as more basic every-day play activities.