Tuskegee University conference addresses health disparities and food insecurity
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (October 11, 2011) — The third International Food and Nutrition Conference was held Oct. 9-11 at Tuskegee University’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. According to the conference's website, one of the main objectives of the event is “to forge links and stimulate new areas of multidisciplinary research among countries where disparities are increasing childhood obesity, food/nutrition insecurity, health and chronic diseases.”
The university welcomed academicians and dignitaries from a wide array of backgrounds and specialties to address the event’s theme: “Sustainable Approaches in Food and Nutrition to Combat Disparities in Childhood Obesity, Chronic Diseases and Food Insecurity.” Sessions were held on topics such as childhood obesity prevention, diabetes, food security, foodborne illness, climate change, community health intervention and global crisis.
On Monday, Tuskegee Mayor Omar Neal spoke about food disparity during his welcome to conference participants.
Tuskegee Mayor Omar Neal welcomes
participants to the third International Food
and Nutrition Conference at Tuskegee
University on Monday. Neal spoke briefly
about food disparities during his remarks.
“We have to change a world that says that it’s OK for others to eat more and others to eat none,” Neal said.
Hunger affecting the world’s economy
Jacques Diouf, director general of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, was the keynote speaker for Monday’s plenary session. He spoke about worldwide food disparity and its effects. He said 925 million people were classified as hungry and undernourished in 2010. Conversely, he said 500 million adults are obese and obesity-related deaths are on the rise.
“Preventing malnutrition is an investment that makes sense not only politically but economically,” he said.
Diouf said hunger and malnourishment affect economics, making adults less effective employees. He also said the poor spend 50 to 80 percent of their income on food and the quality of their diet suffers as their incomes become more compromised.
Diouf said more assistance is needed to help alleviate areas experiencing hunger and malnourishment. He said financial resources and investment are required to keep up with the food needs of the world’s population.
“We should invest $83 billion for crop production,” he said.
After his presentation, Diouf was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon.
“I am proud to be associated with your university in this way. It has played such an important role in advancing agricultural science,” Diouf said.
Tuskegee working toward better information for farmers
Tuesday, Rochon spoke to the conference attendees about the importance of remote sensing data in helping food security, and monitoring the habitat of harmful insects and tracking disease outbreak. For example, the use of tracking information can help reduce the cost and harmful effects of pest eradication by targeting larvae instead of adult pests. By knowing where an infestation will occur next, less expensive larvicides can be used and the area of treatment can be smaller, therefore, less likely to harm beneficial insects.
Rochon said current satellites can monitor the earth’s conditions and yield information such as ocean conditions, air quality and soil moisture. He said the university is working toward remote sensing and satellite projects, and that local farmers can benefit.
“For the first time, small-scale farmers will have access to precision agricultural capability,” Rochon said.
Rochon also stressed the importance of cooperation between civil engineers and epidemiologists to control water level conditions that can affect parasite breeding and help prevent the spread of diseases such as malaria and river blindness. He said that according to the World Health Organization, an African child dies every 30 seconds.
“We are starting a civil engineering department almost simultaneously with our master's (degree) in public health," Rochon said. "I can assure you that the students graduating in public health and civil engineering from this university will be talking to each other.”
Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon, left, and Jacques Diouf, director general of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, pose with Diouf’s honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters on Monday at Tuskegee University’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Rochon presented Diouf with the honorary degree during the third International Food and Nutrition Conference held Oct. 9-11 at the university.
As a panel of academic and political dignitaries looks on, Jacques Diouf, director general of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, speaks on world hunger and food insecurity at the third International Food and Nutrition Conference at Tuskegee University on Monday.