Health

Health is a critical part of food security. What is health? The World Health Organisation states: ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. It is, therefore, an integral part of the food security definition: that is, food security exists  ‘when all people, at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life’.

Countries around the world attempt to provide good quality health services, often including, where possible, nutrition advice. The Australian and New Zealand Governments have been providing nutrition advice for more than 75 years and provide regular updates to,  for example, the publication Recommended Dietary Intakes for use in Australia.

Most attention in the food security world has had justifiable focus on lack of access to food. Every 6 seconds its estimated a child dies of starvation (http://www.aidforstarvingchildren.org/). Malnutrition is estimated to be the source of more than half all deaths of children.

It’s then something of a puzzle to now read in Australia that people are facing the threat of death from eating too much food. Fourteen million Australians are overweight or obese (http://www.modi.monash.edu.au/obesity-facts-figures/obesity-in-australia/). More than five million Australians are obese. If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese. It’s neither a pretty nor healthy picture to paint of a country ranked 2 in the world on the UN’s Human Development Index, in part because of its very high health index rating (a key component of the overall HDI).