By Caitlin Aylward
On Thursday, June 28, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition will release Eating Planet–Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet in New York City. Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights a contributing author of Eating Planet, and shares his views on how to fix the broken food system. Tune in on the 28th via livestream: we will be taking questions in real time from the audience, from the livestream, and from Twitter and Facebook.
Alexandre Kalache stresses the significance of health span and quality of life. (Photo credit: BCFN)
Alexandre Kalache is one of the world’s leading experts on aging, particularly the care and treatment of the elderly and the epidemiology of aging. Kalache’s concluding vignette in the Food for Health chapter of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s most recent publication: Eating Planet 2012 – Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet, questions whether living longer is necessarily better. In his piece, Kalache challenges the measure of lifespan as an indicator for societal health and well-being, and instead stresses the significance of health span and quality of life in determining the success of healthcare policies.
Although average life expectancies have increased drastically over the course of the past century, Kalache suggests that life-style related diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain forms of cancer, as well as the rapid onset of obesity, pose an imminent threat to the gains in life-expectancy from modern medical advancements. In addition to tobacco smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, Kalache points to unhealthy diets and sedentary life-styles as major contributing sources of age-associated diseases. In addition to decreased quality of life and reduced lifespans, these life-style related diseases also contribute to increased health care costs and less money for other public services, such as schools and parks, that would improve the quality of life for communities at large.
In light of the recent emergence of lifestyle-induced diseases, and the healthcare costs associated with these preventable diseases, Kalache stresses the need for policies that would ensure good health and quality of life for the world’s aging population, particularly obesity prevention.
According to Kalache, numerous studies demonstrate the benefits of a reduced calorie diet, including the potential for the extension of the human life span to 150 years or more. Kalache recognizes, however, that the reduction in calorie consumption that would be required to reach this ideal would most likely hinder individuals’ quality of life and would ultimately be unpopular with the general public. For Kalache, the question of how to best implement culturally appropriate and sustainable policies that promote balanced diets and healthy lifestyles that would in turn enhance both individuals’ quality of life and life expectancy presents the primary challenge for health policymakers today.
Effective public health policies, according to Kalache, optimize the opportunities for health participation and security, and also enhance the quality of life for individuals as they age. Such policies would include increased government investment in marketing research as a means of evaluating and enhancing existing healthy habits and preferences of the population. Successful policies would also utilize this information to encourage culturally appropriate and healthy lifestyle behaviors with fiscal and legal policies, such as subsidizing fruits and vegetables, and taxing unhealthy food items while also prohibiting food items such as sugary drinks and fatty foods from public institutions such as schools.
Caitlin Aylward is a research intern for Nourishing the Planet Project.
Tune in to the launch on the 28th via livestream: we will be taking questions in real time from the audience, from the livestream, and from Twitter and Facebook. You can also purchase your own copy of Eating Planet for $3.99 on Amazon or iTunes.