Malnutrition is a serious issue, not only in Germany. Numerous countries around the globe have initiated National Action Plans due to rising numbers of people being overweight, poorly nourished and physically inactive. Some countries place slightly different focuses than Germany but even in low-income countries worldwide, malnutrition, overweight and obesity are problems that must be taken seriously.
In 2004, the World Health Organisation (WHO) adopted a „Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health“. It asks its member states, among other things, to develop national strategies for the prevention of non-communicable, lifestyle-related diseases through health-sustaining diets and increased physical activity. In November 2006, the WHO ministerial conference, held in Istanbul, adopted a Charta for the European WHO-Region to fight obesity.
The EU recognizes malnutrition and lack of physical activity as core challenges
In 2005, the EU Commission published the "Green Paper on promoting healthy diets and physical activity: a European dimension for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases“ and stressed the importance of the issue for European politics. Its White Paper on „A Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity-related health issues" in 2007 developed the matter further. Also, in 2005, the EU Commission established the „European Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health“, in which the industry, professional associations and organisations have committed to take verifiable steps towards the prevention of obesity.
Encouraged by experiences in the USA and Europe, efforts strive to harmonise activities with other European countries.
During its presidency of the Council, Germany stresses certain points
During the German Presidency of the EU Council in 2007, the German government made disease prevention by means of diets and physical activity one of the key issues. In this context, the European Council adopted the conclusions on „Health promotion by means of nutrition and physical activity“.
The European Commission does its share. The „High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity“ deals particularly with the reformulation of foodstuffs. In addition, the EU Platform on Diet and Physical Activity was established to appeal to the industry and to civil society to commit themselves to motivating people towards improving their diets and engaging in physical activity more frequently.
Key issues paper lays down fundamental principles
With its text on the major issues of „Healthy diets and physical activity – Keys to a higher quality of life”, adopted on 9 May 2007, the German government established the fundamental principles and delineated the central fields of action of a National Action Plan for the prevention of malnutrition, lack of physical activity and overweight-related diseases. The National Action Plan „IN FORM – Germany’s initiative to promote healthy diets and increased physical activity” was adopted on 25 June 2008.
Since then, various programmes and projects have been gathered, promoted and funded under the umbrella of the IN FORM National Action Plan. Particular mention should be made here of the development of quality standards for food supplied outside the home, in kindergartens, schools, canteens and hospitals, for instance; of the Kinder Leicht Regions as well as of countless other activities organised by a wide range of actors.
An international issue
Fighting hunger is a pressing problem to be solved by the international community. Next to absolute hunger, hidden hunger affects a growing number of people. Contrary to people who suffer from hunger, those suffering from hidden hunger are not affected by an absolute lack of calories but by deficient supplies of minerals and vitamins. Hidden Hunger often goes hand in hand with harmful dietary habits, overweight or obesity. It particularly affects population segments who, as their economic situation improves, abandon their traditional foods and favour unbalanced diets based on highly processed and high-calorie finished products instead – a phenomenon called nutrition transition.