Lancet says three threats are interacting to create a dangerous ‘syndemic.’
The Lancet calls it the “Global Syndemic.” The report’s authors say we’re facing three pandemics — undernutrition, obesity and climate change — that are interacting to form a “synergy of epidemics,” or syndemic, and it’s a global problem.
Here’s how it works. Undernourished children in low-income and middle-income countries suffer from stunting, which makes them smaller than well-nourished children. But it also makes them more susceptible to obesity (which affects kids and adults in high-income countries even more). By 2015, obesity was affecting two billion people around the world. They’ve been set up to die of cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
The report says, “Economic losses attributable to undernutrition are equivalent to 11 per cent of the GDP in Africa and Asia, or approximately $3.5 trillion annually.” As we add another billion undernourished people by 2030, those losses will worsen.
Meanwhile, climate change is having serious effects on human health, bringing “crop failures, reduced food production, extreme weather events that produce droughts and flooding, increased food-borne and other infectious diseases, and civil unrest.” Those climate effects, the report says, will end up costing five to 10 per cent of global GDP, while investing just one per cent of GDP could stop the increase in climate change.
The Lancet report is blunt about why we do so little, citing “the power of vested interests by commercial actors whose engagement in policy often constitutes a conflict of interest that is at odds with the public good and planetary health.”
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