The 2018 Global Nutrition Report: shining a light to spur action on nutrition
The 2018 Global Nutrition Report reviews existing processes, highlights progress in combating malnutrition, identifies challenges and proposes ways to solve them. Through this, the report guides action, builds accountability and sparks increased commitment to furthering the progress that can reduce malnutrition much faster. The Global Nutrition Report is the world’s foremost publication on the status of malnutrition around the world. It acts as a stock-take on the world’s nutrition – globally, regionally and country by country – and on efforts to improve it. It tracks progress on global nutrition targets, ranging from diet-related NCDs to maternal, infant and young child nutrition.
The burden of malnutrition is unacceptably high
Malnutrition is a universal issue that no country in the world can afford to overlook. A third of reproductive-age women are anaemic, while 39 per cent of the world’s adults are overweight or obese and each year around 20 million babies are born underweight.
Beyond health, slow progress on malnutrition is also impacting the social and economic development of countries. It is estimated that malnutrition in all its forms could cost society up to USD 3.5 trillion per year, with overweight and obesity alone costing USD 500 billion per year.
Corinna Hawkes, co-chair of the Report and Director of the Centre for Food Policy, said: “The figures call for immediate action. Malnutrition is responsible for more ill-health than any other cause. The health consequences of overweight and obesity contribute to an estimated four million deaths, while undernutrition explains around 45 per cent of deaths among children under five. The uncomfortable question is not so much “why are things so bad?” but “why are things not better when we know so much more than before?”
Progress to date is simply not good enough
Significant steps are being made to address malnutrition. Globally, stunting among children under five years of age has fallen from 32.6 per cent in 2000 to 22.2 per cent in 2017. There has been a slight decrease in underweight women since 2000, from 11.6 per cent to 9.7 per cent in 2016. Yet, while there has been progress, it has been slow and patchy.
The 2018 assessment of progress against nine targets reveals only 94 of 194 countries are on track for at least one of the nine nutrition targets assessed. This means that most countries are significantly off-track on meeting all nine targets:
• No country is on course to meet all nine targets.
• Only five countries are on track to meet four of the nine targets – which is the most any country is on track for.
• No country is on track to achieve the adult obesity target for men or women, nor reach the anaemia target.
• Only 26 countries are on track to reach the target for women’s diabetes.
We are better equipped to end malnutrition
The 2018 Global Nutrition Report highlights that solutions already exist but finds effective ideas are not being adopted at scale:
• We now know more about what people eat, why it matters, and what needs to be done to improve diets.
• New data is a game changer and can drive more effective action. Local-level data and action has been particularly effective.
• We see examples of countries building multisectoral plans to deliver on their targets.
• Governments are showing commitment and stepping up to lead action.
The world is off track but the opportunity to end malnutrition has never been greater, nor has the duty to act. To translate solutions into action, the report’s authors urge critical steps in the following areas:
• Breaking down existing silos to tackle malnutrition in all its forms;
• Prioritising and investing in data to identify key areas of action;
• Scaling up and diversifying funding for nutrition programmes;
• Immediately taking action on healthy diets by making healthy foods affordable across the globe;
• Implementing more ambitious commitments that are designed for impact through SMART targets.