Health Meeting the Global Challenge

Freedom from hunger and malnutrition, essential to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, is among the fundamental rights of every human being. What is more, there can be no sound social and economic development without adequate food and nutrition. This is not the same as saying that people in rich countries necessarily have a better chance of being properly nourished than do people in poor countries. There is much more to achieving healthy nutritional status than can be conveyed by such simplistic labels as 'developed' and 'developing' where countries—and most of all people—are concerned.

Even if there is some truth in the axiom 'we are what we eat,' it is clear that nutritional status—a characteristic common to all that can be measured and monitored—depends on considerably more than diet. For individuals, it is best understood as the result of the complex interaction between health at any given moment, the food that is eaten, and the surrounding physical, social, and economic environment. Nutritional status not only reflects the quantity of available food but also its quality, including safety, while showing to what extent the body can transform food into nutrients that will protect and promote health and permit people to function to the best advantage. Because the environment and its impact vary so greatly from individual to individual, there can be no 'standard' answer to the problem of malnutrition. Moreover, no single strategy to combat it will produce the same results in every case. The approach to preventing and overcoming malnutrition thus has to be tailored to fit the circumstances.

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