Group 3—Essential goals for achieving effective solutions

Co-Chairs: Professor Ian Hume and Professor Manny Noakes

Nutrition science is a foundation for food and nutrition policies and practice. This science as well as our society is shifting rapidly. We need not only to keep pace and adapt, but we also need new solutions for nutrition to be relevant in this environment. Understanding nutrition in the broader context of society and the political, technological, cultural and natural environment is key. The technological revolution is transforming both nutrition science as well as communication.

Technology is making an enormous array of information on many topics available direct to the consumer. Further to that, social media is becoming an organic medium that shapes popular opinion in unprecedented ways. Food, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals are being purchased more and more outside the conventional means of the supermarket and pharmacy—purchased online from anywhere in the world.

This group must first ask the question: solutions to what? What is the real problem? Is it the poor health status of many Australians related largely to poor nutrition despite the abundance of high-quality foodstuffs in our country? Or is the real problem elsewhere?

How do we combat the problem and achieve innovative solutions that are sustainable, equitable and rational?

In addition, many planetary environmental indicators are deteriorating, suggesting the burden of human activity may soon exceed the capacity of the planet. How can we incorporate environmental considerations into our solutions?

Questions to get you thinking

Essential goals for achieving effective solutions might include, but not be limited to, such things as:

  1. A national nutrition policy for Australia. Who would produce such a policy?
  2. A national body to provide consistent nutritional advice from one credible source. What would such a national body look like?
  3. What is the core of the issue and what are solutions that might be outside the box?
  4. Uniformity and clarity in nutritional information on food packaging. Is knowledge really the real issue?
  5. Clear information on the source(s) and treatment of foods. For example, “organic” should be rigorously defined and its use strictly regulated. Which body should do this? Should there be a national policy on GM foods? What information should be provided on the sustainable use of natural resources (land, water) in the production of foodstuffs? Should food manufacturers and food processors be encouraged to take ownership of these issues?
  6. Better understanding of new science (new information on metabolic diseases, gut microbiomes, immunity) that might lead to different solutions to what we may have proposed in the past.
  7. Do we need a new innovative approach to nutrition education? Think about pre-school, primary, secondary, tertiary, general community, Indigenous, ante-natal and post-natal (community health centres). Or do we need less of a science-only push but rather strategies that engage the community and citizen science in some way?

Recommended reading

Cannon, G and Leitzmann, C 2006, ‘The New Nutrition Science Project’ Scandinavian Journal of Food and Nutrition 50: 5-12.

Eric Topol 2015. The patient will see you now: The future of medicine is in your hands. Basic Books, New York, NY.

Lowe, M 2014. ‘Obesity and Climate Change Mitigation in Australia: overview and analysis of policies with co-benefits’ Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 338(1): 19-24. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12150

Examine how new technologies and citizen science are changing nutrition practice by looking at relevant websites:

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