In her opening remarks, Shiriki Kumanyika, Research Professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, welcomed everyone to the symposium. Kumanyika noted that the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), now in its 80th year, has continued to grow and expand domestically and internationally, and it has shown leadership across the fields of nutrition and food science to address current and emerging problems in diet and health. Kumanyika explained that the symposium would highlight the accomplishments of the FNB over the past 80 years and engage participants in discussions of current challenges and future directions for the board. She then introduced a short video, created for the anniversary symposium.1
Perspectives from Leadership in Nutrition, Science, and Health Policy
Barbara Schneeman, Professor Emerita at the University of California, Davis, moderated the perspectives from leadership session. She introduced the session speakers, David Satcher and Victor J. Dzau. Both Satcher and Dzau provided their perspectives on the work of the FNB, its impact on public health policy, and issues the board will likely face in the future.
1 Available at https://www.nationalacademies.org/fnb/food-and-nutrition-board (accessed June 15, 2020).
Remarks from David Satcher
Satcher, 16th Surgeon General of the United States and Founding Director and Senior Advisor to the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, began by acknowledging the contributions of individuals to his work as Surgeon General. In particular, he identified Paul Ambrose, a physician who had recently completed his residency in family medicine and came to work in the Surgeon General’s office. Ambrose was coordinating the development of the Surgeon General’s call to action to reduce and prevent overweight and obesity when he was lost in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Satcher also reminisced about one of his predecessors, Luther Terry, who released the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. He noted that Terry was a heavy smoker and when asked by reporters at the release of the Surgeon General’s report if he ever smoked, he replied “I quit 30 minutes ago.” Satcher remarked that “It is never too late to quit.” He also said that it is never too late to improve the way we eat, adding that we have to find a way to continue to improve our dietary habits.
Satcher described the inequalities that exist among school-age children with regard to access to physical education and nutritious meals in school. “Schools should be a place where we can depend upon our children to get good nutrition and regular healthy physical activity,” he said. Satcher then described the Georgia Shape program, which focused on schools as a way to monitor changes in behavior with regard to physical education in kindergarten through 12th grade. Satcher mentioned the low percentage (29 percent) of schools during his tenure as Surgeon General that required physical education. He expressed optimism that schools are returning to physical education, but also observed that we are still being challenged to make the best use of school time and to provide access to safe places to play. He remarked, “All children deserve access to healthy, nutritious food. However, we have a ways to go to make that a reality.” In closing, Satcher urged the FNB to continue its focus on the health of children and opportunities to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, problems that are related to the way we eat and behave.
Remarks from Victor J. Dzau
Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine, began by saying thank you to the FNB for its work on behalf of the National Academies, the nation, and globally. He remarked that at the time of World War II, the government requested the assistance of the National Academy of Sciences to study the problems of nutrition in the United States. Subsequently the FNB was convened initially as the Committee on Nutrition under the National Research Council. In 1988, the FNB became part of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). In his opinion, the board has had an impact on essentially every individual in the country. Programs and initiatives, such as food labeling, nutrition counseling and education, school lunch, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and military nutrition all have benefited from the work of the FNB, he remarked. Dzau commented on the board’s long history of advising the nation on dietary guidance, beginning in 1941 with the Recommended Dietary Allowances, which were subsequently replaced by the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), and which provided a scientific basis for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. government’s primary nutrition policy document. He noted the global influence of the DRIs. Governments around the world, including Australia, Austria, China, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland have adopted the DRI framework; “a significant international impact,” he said.
Dzau mentioned the 1989 report Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk (NRC, 1989) that started exploring the connection between nutrition and risk of chronic disease. The report identified diet as a risk factor for a number of noncommunicable chronic conditions including heart disease, hypertension, cancer, liver disease, obesity, and diabetes. In response, the FNB led the IOM’s efforts related to obesity. One FNB effort, the Weight of the NationTM project, recognized the importance of diet in maintaining health and well-being across the lifespan. In 2002, the U.S. Congress charged the IOM with developing a prevention strategy to reduce risk of obesity in children and youth in the United States. The first product was the report Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance (IOM, 2005). The report identified obesity as a probable epidemic, with about 9 million children from ages 6 to 11 with obesity. “Well, we know where we are today. We have a lot to do,” said Dzau.
In closing, Dzau reflected on the range of issues undertaken by the FNB: food safety, adequacy of the food supply, food marketing, and military nutrition, to name a few. He noted that very few organizations can claim such
broad and important impact. In thinking about the future, he remarked that the FNB will continue to be a source of visionary leadership in nutrition and food science toward the betterment of human health. Among the challenges he anticipated for the board were climate change and its impact on the quality and availability of food worldwide; food safety; and personalized nutrition. Dzau remarked that the FNB was “well-positioned to take on these challenges and has a strong history to build on.”