Knowledge for better food systems

A future for the world’s children?

This WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission examines the effects of climate change and food advertising on children’s health and likelihood of enjoying a good future. The report argues that children’s wellbeing should be placed at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

According to the Commission, childhood is a time at which ensuring good health and nutrition can have lifelong positive impacts on (for example) adult cognitive capacity, muscle strength and life expectancy.

The report points to the harmful effects of advertising directed at children, such as for fast foods and sugary drinks, and argues that voluntary regulation is not sufficient. It states “Although we recognise the role business plays in wealth and job creation, the commercial sector's profit motive poses many threats to child health and wellbeing, not least the environmental damage unleashed by unregulated industry.”

The advertising techniques used to promote unhealthy food items to children include using promotional characters, appealing to a sense of fun, and paying young “kidfluencers” to endorse brands on social media. Children are also highly exposed to advertising supposedly aimed at adults, e.g. television adverts for tobacco, alcohol or e-cigarettes.

Read the full report, A future for the world’s children? A WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission, here. See also the Foodsource building block What is malnutrition?

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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