Developing World Are Rapidly Consuming More Unhealthy Food

Big Food is making a big headway in the developing world, highlighting the need for researchers and policymakers to examine how the food and beverage industry markets unhealthy products implicated in chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

In an interesting article, David Stuckler and al (Manufacturing Epidemics: The Role of Global Producers in Increased Consumption of Unhealthy Commodities Including Processed Foods, Alcohol, and Tobacco, June 2012; PLOS medicine – http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001235) from the University of Cambridge examined market data on processed food and soft drink sales for up to 80 countries between 1997 and 2010.

These are the key points as highlighted:

• The rate of increase in consumption of “unhealthy commodities” (soft drinks and processed foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar, as well as tobacco and alcohol) is fastest in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), with little or no further growth expected in high-income countries (HICs).

• The pace at which consumption is rising in LMICs is even faster than has occurred historically in HICs.

As a result, the developing world is also set to match the First World’s unhealthy commodity consumption rates within three decades.

•  Multinational companies like PepsiCo, Netsle and Danone have now achieved a level of penetration of food markets in middle-income countries similar to what they have achieved in HICs.

• Higher intake of unhealthy foods correlates strongly with higher tobacco and alcohol sales, suggesting a set of common tactics by industries producing unhealthy commodities.

• Contrary to findings from studies undertaken several decades ago, urbanization no longer seems to be a strong risk factor for greater consumption of risky commodities at the population level, with the exception of soft drinks.

• Rising income has been strongly associated with higher consumption of unhealthy commodities within countries and over time, but mainly when there are high foreign direct investment and free-trade agreements. Economic growth does not inevitably lead to higher unhealthy-commodity consumption.

o A free-trade agreement with the U.S. is associated with about a 63.4% higher level of soft drink consumption per capita for low- and middle-income countries.


o For example, Mexico experienced a rapid rise in soft drink consumption after the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement dramatically reduced barriers for trade with the United States. As a result, the % of the Mexican population aged 15 and above who is overweighed or obese is superior to 69% (http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/factbook-2011-en/12/02/03/index.html?contentType=&itemId=/content/chapter/factbook-2011-109-en&containerItemId=/content/serial/18147364&accessItemIds=&mimeType=text/html).


o In contrast, Venezuela – which does not have a similar trade agreement with the U.S. – has maintained steady soft drink consumption rates despite high levels of economic growth.

Unfortunately, all the people in this world are not treated in the same way!

While many companies have pledged to eliminate trans fats and reduce salt, sugar and fat in foods sold in wealthy countries, these nutritional improvements are often not implemented in poorer markets.

There is a need to identify population-level social, economic and political interventions that could stem the rise of unhealthy commodity consumption, and overcome the political barriers to their implementation, as has been done for tobacco control.

It is also imperative to associate these strategies to the current initiative on food security and nutrition that was proposed during the latest G8. A focus on sustainable farming is currently a hot spot but this battle can’t have a real impact in the long term if people see “junk food” like sexy (the food that people living in developed countries love – see one of our previous blog on the same topic) or as the only affordable choice.

Their results and analysis were is part of the journal’s “Big Food” series, which is examining the influence of the food and beverage industry on public health (http://www.ploscollections.org/article/browseIssue.action?issue=info:doi/10.1371/issue.pcol.v07.i17).

Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/356675/20120626/soda-big-food-developing-world-processed-nafta.htm

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African child mortality – The best story in development

Africa is experiencing some of the biggest falls in child mortality ever seen, anywhere

Sixteen out of the 20 African countries whom have had detailed surveys of living conditions since 2005 reported decreases in their child-mortality rates (this rate is the number of deaths of children under five per 1,000 live births). Twelve had falls of over 4.4% a year, which is the rate of decline that is needed to meet the millennium development goal (MDG) of cutting by two-thirds the child-mortality rate between 1990 and 2015 (see chart). Three countries—Senegal, Rwanda and Kenya—have seen falls of more than 8% a year, almost twice the MDG rate and enough to halve child mortality in about a decade. These three now have the same level of child mortality as India, one of the most successful economies in the world during the past decade.

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The decline in African child mortality is speeding up. In most countries it is now falling about twice as fast as during the early 2000s and 1990s. More striking, the average fall is faster than it was in China in the early 1980s, when child mortality was declining around 3% a year, admittedly from a lower base.

The only recent fall comparable to the largest of those in Africa occurred in Vietnam between 1985-90 and 1990-95, when child mortality fell by 37%—and even that was slower than in Senegal and Rwanda. Rwanda’s child-mortality rate have halved between 2005-06 and 2010-11. Senegal has cut its rate from 121 to 72 in five years (2005-10). It took India a quarter of century to make that reduction. The top rates

of decline in African child mortality are the fastest seen in the world for at least 30 years.

One important observation is the fact that the falls have happened in countries large and small, Muslim and Christian, and in every corner of the continent. The three biggest successes are in east, west and central Africa. The success stories come from Africa’s two most populous countries, Nigeria and Ethiopia, and from tiddlers such as Benin (population: 9 millions).

Why this decline?

You might expect that countries that reduced their birth rates the most would also have cut child mortality comparably. This is because such countries have moved furthest along the demographic transition from poor, high-fertility status to richer, low-fertility status. But it turns out that is only partly true. Senegal, Ethiopia and Ghana all have majorly reduced fertility and child mortality. But Kenya and Uganda also did well on child deaths, though their fertility declines have stalled recently. So it cannot all be just about lower birth rates. Liberia, where fertility remains high, did poorly on child mortality—but so did low-fertility places such as Namibia and Lesotho. The link between mortality and broader demographic change seems weak.

What makes a bigger difference? It is some combination of broad economic growth and specific public-health policies, notably the increase in the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) which discourage mosquitoes, which cause malaria.

Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda have been among Africa’s star economic performers recently, with annual GDP growth averaging over 6.5% in 2005-10. At the other end of the scale, Zimbabwe saw its GDP fall and mortality rise. This seems intuitively right. An increase in national income should reduce mortality not just because it is usually associated with lower poverty and better nutrition but also because growth can be a proxy for other good things: more sensible economic policies; more democratic, accountable governments; and a greater commitment to improving people’s living standards.

But growth offers no guarantees. Liberia, with high-mortality rates, actually saw an impressive GDP increases whereas Senegal, whose record in child mortality is second to none, had a rather anemic growth rate by recent African standards (3.8% a year, half that of Rwanda). “The miracle of low mortality” has taken place in different circumstances suggests there can be no single cause. To look for other explanations, therefore, we can look at Kenya in more detail*.

And good riddance

Kenya is a test case. It has cut the rate of infant mortality (deaths of children under one year old) by more than any other country. It has had healthy economic growth (4.8% a year in 2005-10) and a functioning democracy, albeit after horrendous post-election violence in 2008. Moreover, it increased the use of treated bed nets from 8% of all households in 2003 to 60% in 2008. As a result, half the overall drop in Kenya’s infant mortality can be explained by the huge rise in the use of ITNs in areas where malaria is endemic.

Bed nets are often taken as classic examples of the benefits of aid, since in the past they were pioneered by foreign charities. Consistent with the view that aid is vital, Jeffrey Sachs, an American economist, recently claimed that a big drop in child mortality in his Millennium Villages project (a group of African villages that his Earth Institute of Columbia University, New York, is helping) is the result of large increases in aid to villagers. In fact, argues Mr Demombynes, a World Bank representative, the mortality decline in these villages was no better than in the countries as a whole.

The broad moral of the story is that the different sources of aid does not seem to be the decisive factor in cutting child mortality. No single thing was. But better policies, better government, new technology and other benefits are starting to bear fruit. “This will be startling news for anyone who still thinks Africa is mired in unending poverty and death,” says Mr Clemens of the Centre for Global Development. But “that Africa is slipping quickly away.”

Based on an article published in the economist: http://www.economist.com/node/21555571

Hunger eradication essential to achieve sustainable development – UN Food Agency

Sustainable development will not be achieved unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated, stated by the United Nations food agency in a recent report.

One of the great flaws in current food systems is that despite significant progress in development and food production hundreds of millions of people are hungry because they lack the means to produce or purchase the food they need for a healthy and productive life.

“We cannot call development sustainable while this situation persists, while nearly one out of every seven men, women and children are left behind, victims of undernourishment,” said the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, in a news release.

In the report – entitled Towards the future we want: end hunger and make the transition to sustainable agricultural and food systems – was prepared for the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20), which will be held in Brazil next month.  The FAO stresses the need to address the flaws in the current food system so that hundreds of millions of people in developing countries have the means to produce or purchase the food they need for their own consumption and income.

“The quest for food security can be the common thread that links the different challenges we face and helps build a sustainable future,” Mr.Graziano da Silva said. “At the Rio Summit we have the golden opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and sustainability to ensure that happens.”

The key points in this report are:

  • To establish and protect rights to resources, incorporate incentives for sustainable consumption and production into food systems, promote fair and well-functioning agricultural and food markets, and invest public resources in public goods, especially innovation and infrastructure, among other measures.
  • To help farmers who operate 500 million small farms in developing countries and whose resources are limited due to insufficient access to food and nutrition.
  • The need to change consumption patterns in the developed world to reduce food waste. FAO estimates that global food losses and waste amount to 1.3 billion tons per year, which represents roughly one-third of the world food production for human consumption.
  • To be able to feed the expected global population of nine billion people in 2050, an improved governance of the food and agricultural system is required.

“Unless purposeful action is taken, the increase in food production of 60 per cent needed to meet effective demand will still leave over 300 million people behind who are expected to suffer from chronic hunger in 2050 because they will remain without the means to access food,” FAO noted.

To read more on this issue, go to:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42119&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1

http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/50781

http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/development-impossible-without-hunger-eradication/117305/

Early Childhood Programs Help Children Thrive and Learn More in Rural Africa

Universal education has long been regarded as the cornerstone for development. However, not many people are aware that early childhood programs are perhaps most important for children in low-income countries across Africa to give them the tools to improve their future. (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/education.shtml)

Many children in developing countries are not able to develop to their full potential because of serious deficits in health, nutrition, and proper cognitive and non-cognitive stimulation. The effects of the delayed development in the early years can be deleterious and long lasting, reinforcing the cycle of poverty.

Over the past decade, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have made progress in expanding primary education. In Mozambique, net primary school enrollment rates increased from 45% in 1998 to 95.5% by 2010 (The World Bank, 2011). Despite these gains, children frequently experience delayed entry to school and present severe developmental delays, especially in poor rural communities. According to Grantham-McGregor et al (2007), 61% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa fail to meet their development potential because of poverty. Inadequate health and nutrition, cultural practices that limit communication between parents and children, and home environments with few books, toys, and other learning opportunities may all contribute towards inadequate physical and cognitive growth. This particularly important in the early periods of physical and mental development. As a result, children arrive at school ill-prepared for a new learning and social environment.

Moreover, low levels of child development are associated with lower levels of school participation and performance, higher rates of criminality, increased reliance on the health care system, and lower future attainment. To address this situation, a number of Early Childhood Development (ECD) interventions have been proposed, including nutrition programs, parenting programs, and pre-school.

The World Bank study is the first such evaluation of ECD programs in Africa, where entrenched poverty means that 61 % of children under the age of five years do not grow and learn to their full potential.  This randomized study shows that children going to preschool are much more likely to show interest in mathematics and writing, recognize shapes, and show respect for other children. Preschool can benefit the whole family: parents of enrolled children are 26% more likely to work, while some older siblings are able to go to school themselves. Small investments ($2.50 a month per child) have a very powerful long term impact!

To see the full evaluation go to:

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTAFRICA/Resources/The_Promise_of_Preschool_in_Africa_ECD_REPORT.pdf

Sowing the Seeds of Food Security

Another great initiative in South Africa, similar to what Cki is trying to achieve through its new project in the Chorkor community, Accra, Ghana:

Schools Environmental Education and Development (SEED) is a non-profit organization based in Cape Town that creates learning gardens as part of their Organic Classroom Program, in partnerships with schools in South Africa’s poorest communities.

Founded in 2002, SEED trains teachers to design, plant, and nurture a garden according to permaculture principles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture), which encourage a sustainable approach to agriculture modelled after an ecosystem. Teachers are using organic vegetable gardens to help children learn about science, geography, health, and economics—and to unlearn hunger. Produce from the gardens is used in the school’s cafeteria or sent home in parcels with the students for their families.

SEED website: http://www.seed.org.za/   
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SEED/152379438141624

 is not alone…

Greenpop is working in an environment similar to the Chorkor community, where homes are crammed next to one another, the earth is more sand than soil, and strong winds often blow. This organization is a tree-planting social enterprise that is beautifying these areas, starting with the schools. They start with hardier indigenous trees and if they survive, they come back with fruit trees that can produce 20-100 kg of fruits each in a season, helping to increase food diversity. Children are assigned a tree to look after and must each bring in 2L (1 gal) of gray water—recycled from the bath or sink—to water their tree every 2 days. It is gaining attention from media and corporate sponsors for its gung-ho attitude toward mobilizing volunteers for tree-planting days—largely from among Cape Town’s privileged youth. They also partner with larger companies that can tick their corporate social responsibility box when their employees get involved in tree-planting initiatives.

Greenpop website: http://www.greenpop.org/
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GreenpopTreevolution

To learn more about these great initiatives, read this article published in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/business/global/28iht-RBOG-CAPE28.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1

~~Stay tuned for updates about the wonderful things happening around the world~~

A Sweet and Orange Solution for Vitamin Deficiency – Developing Countries Take Action Against Lifestyle Diseases

As announced this year by the UN, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension are largely “forgotten” issue in developing countries. These countries show a higher prevalence of such ailments when compared to developed countries (80% of cases are in the developing world). Experts say that this will be the epidemic facing developing nations in the 21st century, greater than HIV in the 20th century, if trends are not combated in the near future.

In their feature, the BBC World Service program talks about the Botswana initiative to show the reality of NCDs in the developing world and the proactive action plan being put in place by schools to reverse the current trends. The aim is to increase awareness in children and youth about the importance of healthy eating, active lifestyle, and health benefit of specific foods. Scientists have discovered that upon introducing African families to the orange sweet potatoes, as an alternative to the white or pale yellow sweet potato typically grown in Africa, Vitamin A intake in women and children doubled. Vitamin A is essential in preventing blindness and supporting the immune system. A deficiency of this essential nutrient is very prevalent in Africa, causing many children to go blind prior to starting school, as well as increasing their susceptibility to diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. These are just some of the key points highlighted in this short presentation.

To learn more about this terrific proactive initiative, go to:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00lrkcb/Health_Check_30_11_2011/

Our organization, Cki is taking part in the youth awareness movement with its project in Ghana where we have set up a school garden club. The children are already growing a large variety of vegetable and we will soon start an education program on the importance of food diversity, good nutrition, and healthy lifestyle.

~~Stay tuned for updates about the wonderful things happening around the world~~

The orange sweet potato is common in North America and is much higher in Vitamin D than it's white or pale yellow cousin that is normally grown in Africa. However, families in Africa who were given this orange sweet potato to grow were able to significantly increase their Vitamin D intake, protecting themselves from blindness and strengthening their immune system

THANK YOU

THANK YOU to all who attended and contributed to our Rainwater Harvesting System Fundraiser on Saturday November 26th, 2011 for making it a GREAT success!

We hope you enjoyed the evening and we look forward to seeing you at future events.

Subscribe to this blog to keep posted on upcoming CKi events, initiatives, and the progress we are making in Ghana. We will also be featuring the latest news about nutrition, agriculture, food security, food diversity, food development, and international food issues.

~~Stay tuned for updates about the wonderful things happening around the world~~