1.6  Nutrition, health and development

You have probably heard the saying ‘You are what you eat’. The health of your body depends on what you feed it on, just as a healthy plant or anything else will grow better in rich soil and good conditions. As you have learnt in this study session, everybody needs a variety of foods which contain enough different nutrients to keep them alive and healthy. This means that nutrition is a foundation for health and development. Better nutrition means stronger immune systems, less illness and better health for people of all ages. Healthy children learn better and grow better. Healthy people are stronger, more productive, and better able to break cycles of poverty and realise their full potential. The relationship between nutrition, health and development is best described using the MDGs.

Table 1.6  The relationship between nutrition, health and development, and the MDGs.

MDG goalsRelevance of nutrition

MDG 1:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Contributes to human capacity and productivity throughout life cycle and across generations.

MDG 2:

Achieve universal primary education

Undernutrition can lead to frequent illness and absence from school, which can impact on attainment. A good diet improves readiness to learn and improves school achievement.

Iron deficiency disorder reduces mental capacity and academic achievement of children.

Iron deficiency anaemia affects energy levels as well as school attendance and performance.

MDG 3:

Promote gender equity and empower women

Empowers women.

By promoting caring for women (e.g. women should not have to eat after men) and reducing a woman’s household work, the burden of women will be shared and this increases access to, and availability of, affordable food (household food security).

MDG 4:

Reduce child mortality

Reduces child mortality.

Over half of childhood deaths are attributable to malnutrition.

Micronutrients are needed for proper functioning of the immune system. Proper levels of vitamin A also will reduce child mortality by 23%. Childhood morbidities are compounded by iron, zinc and other nutrient deficiencies, leading to increased death rates.

MDG 5:

Improve maternal health

Contributes to maternal health through many pathways.

Addresses gender inequalities in food, care and health.

MDG 6:

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Slows onset and progression of AIDS.

Treatment and care are important components.

MDG 7:

Ensure environmental sustainability

Highlights the importance of local crops for diet diversity and quality.

Nutrition depends on a good environment as this is important for the processes of food production up to its consumption. The availability of some nutrients (for example iodine) depends on a well-maintained environment.

MDG 8:

Develop a global partnership for development

Brings together many sectors around a common problem.

In this study session you have learnt about the magnitude of nutritional problems in Ethiopia. In addition, you have gained some knowledge about the basics of nutrition that you will use in your work. The summary below will enable you to remember the main points.

1.5  Food and nutrition: cultural and religious taboos

Summary of Study Session 1