The Association works to strengthen the evidence base for effective action to improve nutrition related health, particularly in the worst off and most disadvantaged in the world. Effective action will come form learning lessons about what has and has not worked. A key part of the failure of many well intended actions is a lack of human capacity to deliver programmes. For the Association sharing best practice and enhancing the effectiveness of the working force are two dimensions of the same challenge. Our conferences, meetings and short-courses programme are key to our efforts to achieve more effective actions. As both an advocacy and professional organisation it is essential that these two dimensions of our work support and enhance each other.
The Association wanted to hold meetings where it controlled the agenda and which were free from competing interests. The World Nutrition Rio 2012 conference was our first major international meeting. This meeting proved that the Association could organise a big international meeting without funding from conflicted sources, thanks largely to the generous support of the Brazilian government, and in particular the Ministry of Health. This support was made possible by the partner organisation that the Association worked with, and the dedication and commitment of our Brazilian colleagues.
In addition to these large four-yearly international meetings the Association is also committed to building support for, and strengthening, action at a more localised level. To that end we had a meeting in September 2014 in Oxford, the UK. This meeting focused on learning lessons form more up-stream actions to affect population health. More details about this meeting can be found here. News about this event will also be posted on our website during this year.
There are many different actors in the fields of public heath and nutrition, and the Association feels that we can make more rapid progress by working together with partners that share our values and ethos. We have already seen the power of collective action by our involvement in the Conflict of Interest Coalition, and we look to build on these partnerships for future actions, including conferences, workshops, and short courses.
World Nutrition Cape Town 2016 was the 2nd edition of the World Public Health Nutrition Association’s World Nutrition Congress, which was co-hosted by the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. The Global South is experiencing a rapid ‘nutrition transition’, where an increasing number of Southern countries are faced with a ‘double burden’ of malnutrition, with persisting high levels of chronic undernutrition and escalating rates of overweight and obesity, with their accompanying diseases. In the high-income countries, the obesity epidemic is well-established and increasingly affecting the poorest communities.
These challenges are ultimately a reflection of flaws in food, nutrition and health systems. Global and national food systems are increasingly concentrated and globalised, with small scale food production being rapidly marginalised in countries where such activity previously predominated. In many countries people are mobilising to defend their rights and taking action to recover and preserve indigenous and environmentally sustainable food systems.
Several African countries are experiencing a ‘nutrition transition’ but are not yet as advanced along this trajectory as is South Africa, your host country. Together with ‘Big Food’ – large corporations in the food system – South African food companies (manufacturers and retailers) are expanding into Sub-Saharan Africa, influencing many countries’ food environments and nutritional indicators. Hence, South Africa’s experience and policies can inform improved understanding and policy making on the continent and can also provide a platform for all concerned with the impact of the food system on the health of humanity and our planet. The holding of the WPHNA Congress in South Africa has the potential to inform key policy makers and researchers and significantly shape the food and nutrition policy landscape in South Africa, Africa and beyond.
The University of the Western Cape, a public university in Cape Town, South Africa hosted us. Here, researchers, policymakers, students and activists came together from different fields ranging from land and agriculture through food retail and advertising to diets, health systems and nutritional outcomes.
This conference enabled discussion among experts at a critical time in global nutrition, exploring how to make our food system work best for the population, and particularly those that are living in poverty and food insecurity. For us the challenge is how best to ensure everybody has access to enough of the right food, that is healthy for them and the planet today and into the future. These are big complex issues and will take a large concerted effort from many different groups to achieve. The Association wants to play a serious role in this process and this meeting is one important step.
Our World Nutrition Congress held in Rio de Janeiro in April 2012 in partnership with the Brazilian Association of Collective Health (ABRASCO) was a success. It was the first major international nutrition meeting run successfully without any funding from conflicted industries. Critical funding for the congress came mainly from the Brazilian Ministry of Health, in addition to support from many other Brazilian government agencies. The congress was held at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), another crucial partner.
We received 1800 participants from 50 countries to discuss the big challenges in global public health nutrition and, more importantly, to move beyond a description of the problems to a discussion of concrete actions to be taken to address these challenges. To enable this discussion, the meeting encouraged exchange and active participation and debate and sharing of experience of what works and what does not work. The aim was to enable us to improve nutrition related health and well-being in the worst affected people.
If you were not at the congress, you can access reports and videos from the congress on the congress website: www.worldnutritionrio2012.com. The website is available in English and Portuguese.
The Congress showed that even when we know what we should do, doing the right things is a challenge. Repeatedly it was shown that a major constraint to effective action is a lack of capacity, of people, of systems and structures. Political commitment and sound governance are crucial, but without people to shape actions and to implement and evaluate policies and programmes, progress will be too slow. Training and supporting people, building sound institutions, including strong civil societies is critical to both the delivery of programmes but also to hold governments to account- to make sure they deliver their promises.
One important product of the congress that captures the essence of such discussions was the Rio Declaration, published in our journal World Nutrition in June 2012.
The abstracts presented in the congress will be published in a special issue of the journal Public Health Nutrition, and will be available free of charge.
For more highlights of World Nutrition Rio2012, click here.
In addition to our World Nutrition congress series, the Association participates in meetings organized by key partners, either through scientific sponsorship, organization of side events or sessions within other congresses.
Previously, the Association acted as a scientific sponsor of the II World Congress of Public Health Nutrition and I Latinamerican Congress of Community Nutrition, which happened in Porto, Portugal, from 23-25 September 2010. More information about this congress can be found in the official website: http://nutrition2010.com.pt/