Social Basis of Nutrition

The essence of a good society is that every member, regardless of gender, race or ethnic origin should have access to a rewarding life. (JK Galbraith). This includes access to a sufficiency of clean and nutritious food. Harmful factors in the social , population and environmental influences are those which deprive populations of food through insufficient production or importation. Such situations arise from overpopulation relative to food supply from whatever cause, poverty, corruption, disease, bureaucratic sloth and war. The social and political consequences of famine continue for generations.

Malnutrition and poor water and sanitation contribute to 23% of the risk factors to the global disease pattern. The frequency of natural disasters has been increasing during the 20th Century. These lead to a breakdown in social services and failure to distribute food and hence poor nutrition

The reliable provision of food requires an organised society, determined mainly economic and social, and freedom from disease is largely economic and social”.

The influences on nutrition include:

  • food availability and intake
  • sufficient but not excessive suitable nutrients and chemicals which will vary with age, gender, growth and health of the population.
  • the provision and availability of a sufficiency of clean water
  • a nutrient intake which meets the requirements and constraints set by the individual’s genetic constitution
  • a ready disposal of breakdown products of metabolism , urine and faeces

Food that is tasty and meets with the cultural, social and religious requirements of the population.

The world population will increase by between 2.5 and 3.5 billion by the year 2025. There are even projections that the world population will be greater than 8 billion in the year 2025, that is, it will have grown four-fold in a century. The world’s population has risen by 40% during the last 20 years, food production has risen by 50%, though Africa is an exception to this. Food production will have to rise by 75% over the next 30 years to feed 9 billion people.

Much of our modern thinking on population comes from the essay by Thomas Malthus ( 1766-1834) an Englishman who pioneered economic theory. He held that the power of populations to increase is infinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population when unchecked , increases in a geometric progression.. The global average lifespan has increased from 48 to 66 years and will reach 73 in 2025.

Further reading

Brunner E. (1997) Stress and the biology of inequality British Medical Journal. 314, 1187-91
Calman KC.( 1997) Equity, poverty and health for all. British Medical Journal. 314, 1472-6
Campbell, D.A., Radford, J.M.C. and Burton, P. (1991) Unemployment rates: an alternative to the Jarman index. British Medical Journal, 303, 750–5.
Galbraith JK (1996) The good society The humane agenda . London: Sinclair Stevenson.
Godlee, E (1991) Strategy for a healthy environment. British Medical Journal, 303, 836–8.
Gopalan, C. (1992) Bulletin of Nutrition Foundation of India, 13, 1.
Hall P. (1998) Cities in civilization. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Leather S. (1996) The making of modern malnutrition. London . The Caroline Walker Trust.
Lowrey, S. (1991) Housing. British Medical Journal, 303, 838–40.
Marmont MG ( 1998 ) Improvement of social environment to improve health. Lancet 351, 57-60
Rose G. ( 1992 ) The strategy of preventive medicine. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Summerfield D ( 1997). The social , cultural and political dimensions of contemporary war. Medicine, Conflict and Survival , 13 , 3-25.
United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef ). Progress of Nations. Annual Report
United Nations Development Programme( 1999). Human Development Report
Weaver, L.T and Beckerleg, S. (1993) Is health a sustainable state? A village study in The Gambia. Lancet, 341, 1327–8.
World Bank. Sector strategy :health, nutrition and population.( 1997).Washington DC. World Bank Group.
World Health Organisation Report (1998 ) Life in the 21st century- a vision for all .
World Health Organisation Report (1999). Making a difference. Geneva WHO,
Medicine, Conflict and Survival is a journal devoted to this topic.

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