Issues in Brief
Human Health and Nutrition
Good health is fundamental to living a productive life, meeting basic needs and contributing to community life. Good health is an enabling condition for the development of human potential.
Linkages between agriculture andhealth. Source: Hawkes and Ruel, 2006. The components of health are multiple and their interactions complex. The health of an individual is strongly influenced by genetic make-up, nutritional status, access to health care, socioeconomic status, relationships with family members, participation in community life, personal habits and lifestyle choices. The environment – natural, climatic, physical,social or workplace – can also play a major role in determining the health of individuals. Agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) can play an important role in improving human health and nutrition. Although current global production of food calories is sufficient to feed the world’s population today, millions die or are debilitated every year by hunger and malnutrition, making themvulnerable to infectious diseases, e.g., HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrheal diseases. In many developing countries, hunger and health risks are exacerbated by extreme poverty and poor and dangerous working conditions. About 50% of the health burden of malnutrition is attributable to unsafe water, unimproved sanitation and hygiene. In contrast, in industrialized countries, over-nutrition andfood safety issues, including foodborne illnesses affecting human health as well as impacts associated with agricultural production systems, are predominant concerns. There is also a significant incidence of undernutrition among the poor, and a higher burden of both infectious and non-communicable diseases associated with metabolic syndromes, such as diabetes and obesity.
Proportion of thepopulation unable to acquire sufficient calories to meet their daily caloric requirements, 2003 estimates. Source: Rosegrant et al., 2006
AKST has an important role to play in both developing and industrialized countries in contributing to food security and food sovereignty, and breaking the malnutrition/poor health/low productivity cycle.
an individual’s physical and mentaldevelopment, susceptibility to disease, and capacity for work. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a compelling example of the interactions among poverty, illness, food insecurity and loss of productive capacity. HIV/AIDS has become a major factor in the pervasiveness of food
insecurity, as it undermines rural families’ ability to Food insecurity arises when people do not have cultivate adequate food.Irregular and poor quality physical and economic access to sufficient safe, nutritious and culturally acceptable food to meet their nutrition, in turn, hastens the onset of AIDS in those dietary needs. An adequate intake of calories does weakened by HIV and increases vulnerability to opdoes not ensure that the need portunistic infections. The global Approximately 852 million people for micronutrientshas been met. labor force had lost 28 million around the world are unable to obBeing underweight due to wasteconomically active people to tain enough food to lead healthy ing (i.e., low weight-for-height, AIDS by 2005; this number is exand productive lives. indicating acute weight loss) or pected to increase to 48 million stunting (i.e., low height-for-age, indicating chronic in 2010 and 74 millionin 2015. Two-thirds of those restriction of a child’s nutrition), micronutrient defilabor losses will be in Africa. Fewer workers mean ciencies, as well as being overweight, are forms of more families without providers, more children without parents, and the loss of transmission of knowmalnutrition. ledge, skills, and values from one generation to the next. Undernutrition in children is...