Food production and politics are intimately connected. Decisions about what foods are produced, how they are produced, how food and animals are treated, as well as the personal connections related to food are complex and challenging. Food subsidies, school lunch programs, human and animal rights, the environmental consequences of food choices, and ultimately the health of all humans and other beings are all influenced by politics, lobbyists, and informed consumers.
Almost 800 million people in the world are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Most of these individuals live in developing countries. However, there are millions more in developed countries who go to bed each night hungry. Children are the most visible victims of malnutrition. Paradoxically, the world produces enough food to feed everyone. So why does hunger exist? There are many causes and perhaps with an understanding of these causes and a commitment to solutions, hunger and malnutrition can be prevented.
Genetically engineered (“GE”) or genetically modified (“GM”) foods are foods with foreign genes (genes from other plants, animals, or substances) inserted into their genetic codes. While the debate continues, most experts agree there is no consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods. Organizations aligned with the chemical/biotechnology industry provide claims of safety while numerous other healthcare organizations request transparency, clear labeling, and long-term studies on health effects.
“You are what you eat!” How often have most of us heard this phrase? While it may be a common saying, it remains a very true one for many good reasons. Food has the ability to affect our bodies and minds in profound ways. It can influence how we feel, think, sleep, and function every day. By choosing healthy, nutrient-dense, calorie-appropriate, organic foods and drinking adequate amounts of water, we provide ourselves with optimal opportunities to experience positive physical and mental health.
Foodborne diseases affect 10% of the world’s population every year, equivalent to millions of individuals across the globe. These diseases can cause extremely uncomfortable short-term health problems and very serious long-term health consequences, including permanent disabilities and death. Virtually all foodborne diseases are preventable with proper food handling and preparation techniques.
According to the World Health Organization, access to safe water is essential to health and a basic human right. Yet globally, unsafe water causes millions of deaths from diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition, and drowning. The United States has one of the safest water supplies in the world, but national statistics do not tell individuals about the quality and safety of the water coming out of their own taps. In addition, more and more reports are surfacing about contaminants in the U.S. water supply. Healthcare professionals play an important role in preventing waterborne illness and in educating the public about potential health risks related to exposure to microbial and chemical contaminants in drinking water.
Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems both in the United States and worldwide. Globally, hundreds of millions of people are affected by chronic diseases. The personal, social, and community costs of these diseases range in the billions of dollars every year. People with chronic diseases often suffer a slow, debilitating, decline of overall health and well-being. However, many chronic diseases can be prevented via a nutritious diet, healthy lifestyle, and avoidance or reduced exposure to environmental toxins.