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Dean's Message, Spring/Summer 2017


THE WORLD PRODUCES ENOUGH NUTRITIOUS FOOD FOR EVERYONE, but many of the most profound public health challenges are food-related. Despite substantial progress over the last 25 years, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that globally nearly 800 million people suffer from chronic undernourishment. Even in the United States and other middle- and high-income countries, large numbers of people are food-insecure. At the same time, countries around the world increasingly face a different kind of nutrition problem: the overconsumption of unhealthy foods — a long-term development that, combined with the trend toward more sedentary societies, has produced an epidemic of obesity and conditions associated with these changes in diet and exercise, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Thanks to public health efforts, most of us have at least a general understanding of which foods are good for us and which ones aren’t. We know that a well-balanced diet and regular exercise are critical to our health. But information is not enough when wages are low and healthy foods for a family are unaffordable, in communities where fresh produce is rare and large servings of unhealthy foods are both ubiquitous and inexpensive; where safe spaces for exercise are lacking; and where impossibly long work hours (paid and unpaid) make the barriers to exercise and other care needed for health nearly insurmountable. Social, political and economic forces powerfully shape access to quality food and health-promoting physical activity through issues such as affordability, safety, time, and availability of information and goods, among other factors.

Fielding School students, faculty and alumni understand this, and as the examples in this issue attest, many are leaders in the ongoing effort to transform nutrition and physical activity through programs and policies designed to lower the obstacles to leading healthy lives. Social conditions exert tremendous influence over people’s ability to lead nutritious and active lives. Our school and its graduates are addressing these conditions to ensure that everyone, regardless of where they live and work, has access to affordable, nutritious foods as well as safe and fulfilling opportunities for physical activity.


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Jody Heymann, MD, PhD