Tag Archives: Health

Modeling as a Tool for Planning

robertoBy Roberto Telleria

What are the determinants of wellbeing, and how can they be influenced by policies? As pointed out by experts such as John Helliwell, Co-Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) (Helliwell, 2002), Professor Richard Easterlin of the University of Southern California (Easterlin, 2001) and Christian Grootaert of the World Bank (Grootaert, 1999), the determinants vary according to geographical location, age, gender, time, and other economic, social and psychological variables. Thus the question of what determines wellbeing is complex. The level of wellbeing of a household seems to be a question that every member of that household can answer themselves, but this answer relies on their perceptions of what constitutes a high quality of living, family life, health, education, and the environment.

In this short article the complexities involved in modeling the interactions between the variables that determine wellbeing, and those that determine policies, are presented. Two examples illustrating the interactions between health and deforestation, that in turn affect wellbeing, are discussed. Read More »

Uncovering Undernutrition (Part II): What are the causes of undernutrition?

Uncovering Undernutrition Part I looked at how many people are undernourished in different regions of the world, and how much food is available in those regions. These numbers were taken from the 2012 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) entitled ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World‘. The report shows that there is more than enough food available to feed everyone, therefore, there must be other reasons why several million people are going hungry each year. So, what else affects undernutrition levels around the world? Read More »

The Cost of Obesity

Being obese or overweight is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century; it is the fifth leading risk for global deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet it is completely preventable. The problem seems to be related to wealth; the WHO also reports that levels of obesity in high- and upper middle-income countries are more than three times higher than in lower middle income countries although the problem is rising dramatically for the latter.

Obesity is medically defined as the state in which a person’s body mass index (BMI), obtained by dividing their weight by the square of their height, exceeds 30 kilograms per meter squared. The amount of body fat carried by someone with this BMI affects their health and life expectancy. The most common associated diseases are coronary heart disease, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure, but there are also many others such as osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer. The result has a detrimental effect not just on the individual, but also on the economy as a whole. Read More »

Uncovering Undernutrition (Part I): Is there enough food?

In 1996 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) estimated that the world was producing enough food to provide each person with 2,700 calories per day. Each day an average grown man needs around 2,500 calories per day, a grown woman around 2,000 calories, and children less. In other words, in the mid-nineties, there was more than enough food to keep everyone in the world adequately fed. Yet nearly 1 billion people, around 17 percent of the population at that time, were undernourished. What was happening?

According to the FAO, undernourishment occurs when, for at least a year, a person is unable to eat enough calories to meet the minimum energy needs of an inactive lifestyle. It does not take into account the needs of those who have a physically active life, such as farmers or manual laborers, and therefore need more calories to stay strong and healthy. Nor does it take into account deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals which can have negative long-term effects on health, such as weak bones and skeletal deformities caused by a lack of vitamin D.

Based on the latest country data on population numbers, availability and distribution of food, and the ability of people to afford and physically access that food, the 2012 FAO report,’The State of Food Insecurity in the World‘ reveals a lot about undernourishment around the world over the past two decades.

Read More »

GM Crops – Friend or Foe?

Last July billionaire Bill Gates was criticized for donating around US$10 million to the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom to fund their research which helps the developing world. Why? Because they work on developing genetically-modified (GM) crops. GM crops receive a lot of publicity. They are cast positively as a potential savior of famine-struck countries, with the potential to be more nutritious, higher-yielding, and resistant to pests and extreme weather conditions. Were this true, then surely there would be very little opposition. So why is there so much controversy? Well, because it has become apparent that achieving these goals comes with a lot of difficulty, and because of the threat of potentially disastrous side-effects. Read More »

INESAD News: Linking School Food Policy and Children’s Health in America

Over the summer of 2012, INESAD‘s Ioulia Fenton is researching food and agriculture issues at Worldwatch Institute‘s Nourishing the Planet project. In her latest article, she discusses a new study suggesting that school food policy matters when it comes to the health of school kids in America.

New Evidence Shows That School Food Policy Matters When It Comes to Kids’ Health

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to the 2011 F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens Americas’ Future report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Trust for America’s Health, nearly one-third of all American kids ages 10 to 17 are either obese or overweight. This puts them at risk of more than 20 major diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Can We Use Trade to Make Us Healthier? A Case Study From Mexico

U.S. exports obesity epidemic to Mexico was the conclusion of a recent Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) report. The study looks at the health consequences of the North American Free Trade agreement (NAFTA), a tri-lateral trade liberalization agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. that came into effect in 1994. The researchers tracked the increases of U.S. exports into Mexico that followed NAFTA’s implementation. These included such items as soft drinks, snack foods, processed meats, and dairy, as well as raw inputs such as corn and soybeans that are used in the food processing industry. They then linked the rises to increased consumption of unhealthy foods and, thusly, to an incremental rise in the nation’s climbing obesity epidemic. Read More »

Guest Roast: “Traditional Birth Assistants: Scapegoats or Potential Miracle Workers?”

Thomas Hart has been called ‘a fine example of a “citizen of the world”’* and an expert on traditional Maya practices having lived, worked and studied in Guatemala for the best part of two decades. Thomas is an anthropologist at heart and has consolidated his vast knowledge in his book “The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya”. He works for a British NGO called Health, Poverty, Action and as a guest roaster shares with us some potential solutions to high maternal mortality rates in Guatemala**.

Comadronas, Guatemala’s Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), are community midwives who are estimated to deliver up to 90% of births in rural Guatemala. Their relationship with the Ministry of Health has been a complicated one. In many communities, they have been derided by health professionals as uneducated (they sometimes are), illiterate (they sometimes are) and even superstitious (for practicing their own indigenous culture). As such they have served as convenient scapegoats for high maternal mortality rates, which are estimated to be twenty times higher in developing nations (1). Read More »

Guest Roast: “Landmine Victims, The Forgotten Souls of Colombia.”

Guest Roaster Aliza Amlani shares her experiences from Colombia.

A few weeks ago I began reading “Writing on the edge”, a book about Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) missions Worldwide. One reporter was in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, an area rife with malaria and unexploded landmines planted by the Khmer Rouge. As I sat sipping on a cup of tea in the comfort of my own home, I wondered what it must be like to put yourself in such a dangerous situation. Three weeks later that is exactly what I did.

I have been living in Bogotá for 3 months now, working at an NGO. One evening a call from a colleague informed me that we were going to carry out monitoring and evaluation of projects in the department of Meta, only a few hours by car from Bogota but a place that feels like a world away. It is well known as the “home” of the FARC, the left wing guerillas that have terrorized citizens for decades. Cocaine plantations and a close proximity to the capital make Meta a hotspot for guerilla activity. Like where there is smoke there is fire, where there are guerillas there are paramilitaries, the deadly opposition right wingers. These two groups fiercely battle for land and cocaine plantations, destroying anything and anyone that stands in their way. Read More »

Lazy, Greedy Gluttons? Is obesity really such an individual problem?

It is no secret that the world is getting fatter. Lazy, greedy gluttons! If only you would just put down the burger, eat a banana and go for a jog. Right? Is it really that simple? I mean Weight Watchers tells us it’s all about point scoring and will power and the occasional leaflet from the NHS insists it’s a matter of your 5-a-day, so what is wrong with us? Why are there now 1.5 billion adults and 43 million children overweight or obese worldwide, rising by a staggering 214% since the 1950s? Yes, some of it lies in self-control. We are not stupid, we all know a stick of celery is healthier than a stick of Twix. But since this is such a widespread phenomenon, I don’t think it all lies in the choices we make. Is it perhaps also genetic? I find it hard to believe that the rate of evolution is so rapid that in a generation or two a third of Americans and Brits and 24% of all Mexicans have now developed the obesity gene, with around another third being at least overweight. So if it is not entirely us or our DNA, then what on earth is going on? Well, the fact that the rate of childhood obesity in Mexican kids is highly correlated with their proximity to the US border should serve a clue. Read More »

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