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6 Summary Speakers and participants addressed a wide array of issues related to food and health. They cited obesity, hunger, malnutrition, and diabetes as some of the major food-related health concerns. They described research pertaining to the use of various foods to treat or prevent chronic diseases, the role of foodborne pathogens in causing intestinal illnesses, and the need for improvements in biosecurity. Diet and food-related health concerns were seen as a driver for the movement toward a preventive health-care system. Participants also discussed a variety of mechanisms for bringing together the nation's agriculture and health-care infrastructures with the goal of improving public nutrition and health. They pointed to models of successful integration in education, government, and the private sector, but they also cited many shortcomings, especially in institutional support of multidisciplinary research. Multidisciplinary teams made up of professionals in such fields as nutrition, medicine, public health, agricultural production, food technology, behavior, economics, and marketing are the key to defining and refining the underlying research that is necessary. Evaluation of the performance of those mechanisms was identified as a necessary component of a successful program. The theme of consumer education and information emerged throughout the symposium. Many participants agreed that better education in diet and health 55
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56 EXPLORING A VISION was needed at all levels and for all sectors of society, starting in early childhood. Participants expressed a wide range of opinions on whether consumers receive consistent and clear information about diet and health from the media and other sources. However, there was close agreement on the need for more research in the behavioral and social sciences to determine the factors behind consumers' dietary and lifestyle choices and the need to find ways to overcome resistance to healthier options. Specifically, meeting attendees made the following suggestions: . . . . . . Form Interdisciplinary Bridges All too often, the food and health components of institutions, such as various colleges that belong to the same university, are cut off from each other and fail to work together to achieve common goals. Whether they are due to physical, conceptual, or historical barriers, these counterproductive arrangements need to be replaced to allow more synergy. Reevaluate Reward Structures Investigators are often trained and rewarded for individual work rather than teamwork, and a shift to multidisciplinary research requires a modification of reward structures. "Glue investigators," who would act as liaisons between individuals and teams, could help to resolve the issue. Revise Support Infrastructure Many issues are related to support difficulties in obtaining adequate funds for nutrition-related research, funding inequities among federal agencies in amount and duration, and the need for more funding specifically earmarked for food-health research and training. A new institution that bridges agriculture and health may be needed. Identify a Champion A person or a body with high visibility and integrity is needed for a sustained campaign to promote awareness of the interdependence of food and health, and awareness of the need for increased research on this topic. Integrate Food-Health Research with Behavioral Studies There is awareness that behavioral and social factors influence food and lifestyle choices, but there is a dearth of specific knowledge about the issue, and it is crucial for further research. Begin Nutrition Education in Early Childhood Early education will reinforce healthful eating habits, which also could be conveyed from child to parent.
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SUMMARY . 57 Involve Leaders ir' Goverr~mer~t arid the Public Changes in agricultural policies, such as farm subsidies, and in production practices may be needed to provide consumers with healthier food choices. Participants suggested a number of avenues for change, including legislation. At the close of the meeting, participants were left with the words of William Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, who expressed the hope of many of the participants that the workshop will be the catalyst for a new paradigm for research and education in food and health.
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