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LCIRAH Conference 2012

The role of agricultural and food systems research in combating chronic disease for development.


LCIRAH 2nd Annual Conference: Conference Report

LCIRAH 2nd Annual Conference: Programme

Background and rationale

Nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, represent the leading causes of death and disability worldwide with the greatest prevalence in low and middle-income countries where nearly 80% of NCD deaths occur.  The burden of death and disease from NCDs is greater than that for communicable or infectious diseases in every region except Africa, where NCD rates are rapidly rising. The impact of these chronic diseases is now considered such a threat to global health that a UN High-Level Meeting was held in 2011 to address their prevention and control. The increasing prevalence of NCDs in even the poorest regions of the world has potentially enormous consequences for development. However, the linkages between NCDs and poverty and constraints to development are not universally well-recognised, and it is important that a clearer case be made to mobilize more widespread attention from the development community.

Although the predominant response of public agencies to tackle the NCD problem has been based on therapeutic approaches, there is increasing recognition of the need for a preventative approach based on food-based strategies, ie., improving diets to reduce the burden of NCDs. However, almost all the available experience in this regard comes from the developed world. These lessons, typically based on food sector regulation and engagement with consumers, do not transfer easily to the developing world. The research world is starting to think about upstream solutions, such as structuring agricultural policy to incentivise the production of healthier crop mixes, or governing value chains to produce better nutritional outcomes.

The workshop

This workshop in London brought together health, food systems, development, policy and agriculture researchers to explore the latest thinking on these issues, with the objectives of:

  1. Obtaining sharper focus on the framing of NCDs as a development problem.
  2. Identifying the future research agenda and research priorities for agricultural and food systems in light of outputs from the UN High level meeting.
  3. Identifying interdisciplinary ways of working in this area at the intersection of multiple disciplines, and
  4. Helping disseminate outputs from multiple streams of research in this area being conducted across the world and facilitating future international research collaborations.

Programme at a glance

Session 1: Chronic Disease as a Development Problem
Speakers: Srinath Reddy (Public Health Foundation of India), Per Pinstrup Andersen (Cornell University) and John Barrett (DfID).

Session 2: Agricultural/Food Policy and Chronic Disease
Speakers: Robert Mazur (Iowa State University), Spencer Henson (IDS, Sussex) and Andrew Westby (University of Greenwich).

Distinguished Lecture 'The Politics of Food: the View from 2012' by Marion Nestle (Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and Professor of Sociology at New York University).

Session 3: Value Chain Interventions and Chronic Disease
Speakers: Wendy Snowdon (Fiji School of Medicine/Deakin).

Breakout group discussions

Expert panel

Speakers: Srinath Reddy (Public Health Foundation of India), Per Pinstrup Andersen (Cornell University), Ismael Thiam (West African health Organization), Marion Nestle (New York University), Marie Ruel (IFPRI), John McDermott (IFPRI) and Gert Meijer (Unilever)