On 27 February – 1 March the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Europe and Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) together with the Nordic Council of Ministers will organise a seminar ‘Towards healthy and sustainable food systems in the Baltic region’ with the goal to discuss data needs, available policy options and the role of transformation partners and stakeholders in the Baltic region.
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases are the biggest health challenge facing all countries in the European Region. The high prevalence of NCDs has large financial implications (e.g. cost of care; productivity; absenteeism) and challenges economic development in many countries, as well as the quality of life of its citizens. According to the Global Burden of Disease study, the main risk factors for NCDs in the region are attributable to diet, such as low consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as an excessive consumption of sugar, sodium and saturated and trans fats. At the same time, current dietary patterns also influence the health of our planet. Food production is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions and is a driver of biodiversity loss and freshwater depletion. Feeding the world sustainably and promoting good nutrition and health under a changing climate is one of the main global challenges of our time.
Taking part in the seminar will be representatives from the Baltic States’ Ministries of Health, representatives from the healthcare industry, as well as experts from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. During the event each country’s priorities and needs will be surveyed, the project priorities and activities will be refined, and a food systems mapping exercise will be performed to capture the range of actors and sectors that need to be involved. The participants will evaluate the best examples from other European countries, as well as evaluate existing tools to promote and develop cooperation within research. They will initiate new cooperation networks between researchers and policy makers, as well as will agree on a unified research plan for the Baltic Sea Region countries.
‘Each country can do more to promote healthier diets. It is not likely that changes in how a society behaves will happen of their own accord if the environment does not offer supportive tools,’ says João Joaquim Rodrigues da Silva Bred, Head of the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.