Wednesday, April 13, 2011

KLV 125 years

The Wageningen University and Research Center Alumni network (KLV) celebrates its 125 year anniversary this year. Part of the celebrations is a series of presentations and debates on emerging topics regarding food, nutrition and agriculture, with ‘How to feed the World’ as the over-arching theme. Yesterday afternoon I presented at one of these debate sessions in Nieuwspoort in the Hague.

The topic of the afternoon was how healthy and sustainable food and nutrition can and should go together. The debate focussed on whether promotion of healthy and sustainable food should be primarily be pursued via health education to encourage well-informed healthy choices, or more via health protection measures, i.e. by changes in the availability and accessibility of foods in order to make the healthy and sustainable choice more or less the ‘default’ choice.

The great public health promotion accomplishments (the US Centers of Disease Control (CDC) as well as for example the department of Public Health of Erasmus University Medical Center have made overviews succeses of prevention as well as   of the past were mostly the result of health protection measures. Two well-known examples are the building of drinking water and sewage systems that has resulted in the almost disappearance of some major infectious diseases; and traffic safety measures have resulted in an impressive reduction in (fatal) traffic accidents.

Recent research shows that our dietary choices are strongly influences by environmental cues, i.e. by what is easily available and accessible. And in our fast food nations, some of the most readily available and almost unavoidable foods are high calorie-low nutrient foods like sweet and savoury snacks, sugar-sweetened drinks.