Food for thought: We are what we eat (L6)

After an indulgent jampacked and fruitful three days absorbing all things related tohealth policy at the European Health Forum in Gastein, this session allowed conference attendees to ingest the current issues regarding food policy in Europe and digest what this means for our public health and wellbeing.

Food is a fundamental part of human society that impacts every facet of our lives. What we eat has huge effects on how we look, how we feel, and most importantly our own health. We use food to sustain ourselves but increases in food availability has indirectly led to increasing disease prevalence across EU countries. We are seeing more and more diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food allergies, liver disease and bowl disease in our populations. Huge societal issues around food and health sustainability are brewing and we need to act now for the health of our populations!

As food supply and delivery has developed in recent history, we have created an obesity monster that is devouring health system resources and people’s quality of life. During this session it became obvious to me there is a lack of awareness of the impact food issues have across society at both the micro and macro level.  The damage being caused to our lives by actions of the food industry is exceptionally serious. We need to start to ask hard questions of food industry practises now and introduce disruptive policy inventions to bring down the disease burden of obesity.

During this session, we found out that not only are we what we eat but that we are not alone and our own friendly microorganism’s health is also dependent on what they eat. To keep our fellow bacterial buddies healthy and happy, we need to realise core benefits of healthy eating and change supply chains and food delivery systems.

We heard about steps some countries are taking such as Israel to improve their populations health from the massive negative effects to rising obesity. It was emphasized that we need to empower people through market interventions to have the choice of changing their own eating habits.

As far as Public health in concerned we need to focus creating environments where people can eat well. We need to more to a space where we engage many areas not just health but other areas of government at all levels to design policies to change behaviour and improve life’s of our citizens. At an EU level, we need to strive to make ensure different actors in the system are involved and are aware of the importance of food in citizen’s lives.

Healthy eating choices need to be considered a basic human right, Food for thought indeed.

This Blog was written by Young Gasteiner Ronan O’Kelly.

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