By: Lindsay Maurath 5/21/2010
As a future dietitian I am extremely curious about the outlook for nutrition and food in the years to come. What challenges might consumers, industry and public health professionals face and what goals should be set? In the recent past, consumers have placed their focus on convenience foods and fad diets that eliminate some food groups entirely. Dietary counseling may not have been an option, except for the very ill. In this fast paced world, food choices can also be constrained by lifestyle and affordability. Given the rise in chronic disease rates and the burden of chronic disease on our health care system, we know this approach is not working. But there is good news!
Experts agree that we are entering a new era where with directed efforts we can change the dynamic between food and health. HHS and USDA are setting the tone by collectively discussing actionable steps that the government and others can take to help all Americans achieve a long and healthful life. Proactive health and wellness strategies, including getting enough physical activity and consuming a healthful diet, will be king in this new era. Nutrition counseling will likely become more widely available and food technology will allow us to enjoy a variety of healthful food choices we could never have previously imagined.
These ideas and more were discussed at a special Web cast, “The Future of Food in the Age of Health Reform” on Tuesday, a joint effort by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). The Web cast allowed these organizations to represent their fields and present their vision for how the current health environment affects individual eating habits and lifestyle choices. Many issues were addressed including consumer behavior and perception, healthcare reform, the role of prevention in health and the science of food. To that end there were four focus areas that the collaboration honed in on to summarize the outlook for the future of food:
o A Focus On Prevention-- In an effort to assist Americans in enjoying and living their lives to the fullest, an increased focus on reducing the risk of chronic disease will be critical, with the role of achieving a healthful diet and active lifestyle receiving more emphasis. Minimized healthcare costs and aging healthfully will be the potential outcomes of these efforts.
o Increased Access to Dietitians-- To realize the vision of a healthier nation, registered dietitians will be an instrumental conduit to giving people the much needed advice they seek to make dietary changes to improve their health. Dietitians will be providing more guidance and will have greater influence on community-based programs, such as those addressing childhood obesity.
o Increased Role for Food Science-- Food scientists provide food options that allow consumers to have a variety of choices that match their lifestyles. And as federal dietary regulations move forward, food scientists will be even more poised to provide the public with food choices that can assist them in attaining a healthful diet.
o The Need for More Research-- Nutrition and food science will continue to evolve and intersect, but the need for continued research will be necessary to gain insights into understanding consumers’ behavioral influences when making diet and lifestyle choices. Research will provide the answers to assist policymakers, health professionals, food scientists, and many others in meeting the needs of the consumer.
If you were unable to attend the Web cast visit please visit the “Future of Food in the Age of Health Reform” resource page to find more tips and information, including slides from the Web cast.
Gaze into your crystal ball, what does the future of health look like to you?