Unravelling the Food–Health Nexus - building healthier food systems

12 October 2017

IPES-Food and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food have published a report evidencing the complex interdependencies between food systems and health (of people and planet).

It strongly recommends that decision-makers adopt a systems approach to food and that cross-sector partnerships be set-up to respond to the monumental task of building healthier food systems.

A few useful extracts include:

Food systems thinking must be promoted at all levels, i.e., we must systematically bring to light the multiple connections between different health impacts, between human health and ecosystem health, between food, health, poverty, and climate change, and between social and environmental sustainability. Only when health risks are viewed in their entirety, across the food system and on a global scale, can we adequately assess the priorities, risks, and trade-offs underpinning our food systems.”

Policy processes must be up to the task of managing the complexity of food systems and the systemic health risks they generate. Integrated food policies and food strategies are required to overcome the traditional biases in sectoral policies (e.g., export orientation in agricultural policy) and to align various policies with the objective of delivering environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable food systems. Integrated food policies allow trade-offs to be weighed up, while providing a forum for long-term systemic objectives to be set (e.g., reducing the chemical load in food and farming systems; devising strategies for tackling emerging risks such as antimicrobial resistance). These processes must be participatory. The general public must become a partner in public risk management and priority-setting, and buy into the rationale and priorities underpinning it.”

“The monumental task of building healthier food systems requires more democratic and more integrated ways of managing risk and governing food systems. A range of actors — policymakers, big and small private sector firms, healthcare providers, environmental groups, consumers’ and health advocates, farmers, agri-food workers, and citizens — must collaborate and take shared ownership in this endeavour.”

Read the report 'Unravelling the Food–Health Nexus: addressing practices, political economy, and power relations to build healthier food systems'


Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities
07 917 230 121

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

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