About 3.7 million deaths could be prevented by 2025 if governments boost their focus on healthier eating, according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) latest guidelines on improving nutrition.
The new report, ‘Essential Nutrition Actions: mainstreaming nutrition throughout the life course’, released on Wednesday, stresses the role of primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage.
In order to achieve coverage for all, “nutrition should be positioned as one of the cornerstones of essential health packages,” Assistant Director-General at WHO Naoko Yamamoto said, echoing the report’s key message.
"We also need better food environments which allow all people to consume healthy diets," he added. In addition to helping countries achieve health care for all, stepping up nutrition actions could help boost economies, “with every USD 1 spent by donors on basic nutrition programmes, returning USD 16 to the local economy," WHO said in a statement.
Meanwhile obesity levels continue to rise, jumping from 4.8 to 5.9 per cent, for children between 1990 and 2018; an increase of nine million. When adults are accounted for, 13 per cent of the world's population are considered obese, with numbers rising in nearly every country and region.
Health issues stemming from poor nourishment have seen improvements in some respects, with a global decline in stunting, for example, between 1990 and 2018 from 39.2 to 21.9 per cent, in children under-five.
Intervention means health packages “need to contain robust nutrition components but countries will need to decide which interventions best support their national health policies, strategies and plans,” said the UN health agency.
The guide aims to address the “double burden” of treating people who are underweight and overweight, and provide countries with a roadmap for better interventions.
On September 23, alongside the Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit, a high-level meeting is set to take place on the topic of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
In the lead-up to the General Assembly high-level week, WHO and partners will publish the latest version of the Global Monitoring Report on UHC, following global leaders’ 2015 pledge to achieving health for all by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.