The father of medicine, Hippocrates, said in 431 B.C. “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Global health encompasses several components, ranging from immunizations to mental health. In 1950, when the World Health Organization designated April 7th as World Health Day, the organization made aware the areas of the globe that need more resources to accommodate vibrant health.
Hippocrates understood the power of nutritious food. Throughout history, many cultures have used food to heal and cleanse their bodies. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes have been staples in diets for ages, and for those of us who sometimes take the food that comes out of the earth for granted, these staples can be easily accessed any time of the year at our local supermarkets. However, this luxury is not true for many. While WHO campaigns for universal health coverage, which is certainly essential, WFB takes a closer look at the health benefits of the foods we can produce on our global farms.
Agriculture is a large part of global health. While smallholder farmers produce 80 percent of the food consumed globally, they face many challenges in growing healthy, diverse crops and getting it to market. We need to change conditions for smallholder farmers so that they can produce enough to support themselves and feed their communities, but also to establish food reserves that will ensure sustenance when countries are facing food shortages, due to humanitarian or other crises.
At the World Food Bank, our mission is to revolutionize our global food systems so these food shortages, which are currently addressed by programmatic aid, become a thing of the past. By making systemic change to the way we govern our food systems, we can resolve many serious health issues – from malnutrition to stunting to the prevalence of cancer. However, we can’t do this by focusing on one output or segment of the agriculture system or by putting all of the responsibility on a single sector.
Through building thriving food systems – that include the participation of private sector companies, governments, NGOs, and smallholder farming communities – we will be able to see dramatic improvements in global health.