13 August 2012

London 2012's Legacy Should be "No More Stunting" by the 2032 Games

So, the Olympic Hunger Event has come and gone. David Cameron resisted doing Mo Farrah's Mobot (a wise move) and, no doubt well-briefed, he also resisted the temptation to simplify the challenge of eradicating childhood stunting (another wise move).

The Event generated £120m (additional?) in commitments from the UK to fighting stunting in 3 areas: (a) getting agriculture to do more to reduce stunting, (b) getting the private sector to be more pro-nutrition and (c) doing a better job of tracking undernutrition -- and the commitment to fighting it.
More importantly the Event gave some shape, definition and purpose to the UK’s G8 meeting next year and simultaneous Irish leadership of the EU.

It is too early to tell if the Event was a success. From those who were there, it is clear that the right commitments were made by a range of governments and companies (it wasn’t only the food and pharmaceuticals that were present). The Event certainly avoided calamity, which is quite an achievement--it was a bold move to hold a summit on a very serious topic just before a big party to celebrate the end of a terrific Games. David Cameron did not have to do it, and he did, so kudos to him and Andrew Mitchell.

Of course making commitments when you have a bunch of people breathing down your neck is the easy part. The hard part is sticking to the commitments. Just as hard is monitoring who is sticking to them. It’s like athletes making predictions about winning a race and then no-body being able to watch the race first hand and relying on the athlete’s own accounts. That’s why I am so keen on the new tools for monitoring commitment—it’s the equivalent of “super slo-mo”.

It’s a shame that the media had to have their Olympic celebrities there to make the Event more newsworthy, but that is not “super fast Mo” and the other Olympians’ fault. Readers’ online comments on the news stories were not too dispiriting either—even if there were a few along the lines of “why are these celebrities putting their hands in the British taxpayer pockets when we have so many problems at home?” Whoever wrote that has never seen how malnutrition eviscerates a child’s life.

What about the targets on stunting? In May 2012 the World Health Assembly (convened by WHO) agreed to a new target of reducing the number of stunted children by 40% (about 70 million) by 2025. This is 13 years away, so means about 5-6 million a year, hence the announcement at the Event of efforts to prevent another 25 million kids being stunted by the next Olympics in 4 years time in Rio.

I think these targets are good—but are too timid. We can eradicate stunting within 20 years—we know what to do, we know how much it will cost each year (for the direct nutrition interventions the annual budget is about what the London 2012 Games cost--£9 billion)—all that is missing is the political commitment, hence the need for the commitment “super slo-mo”.

As a Londoner, I was proud of the Games (I grew up about 5 miles from the Olympic Stadium). But the Games are a confection in a world where the main children’s course –food, health and care-- is often absent.

I will be truly proud of London 2012 if it moves us faster to a world of no stunting at the 35th Olympiad in 2032.


Dr. John Barrington Leigh said...

Despite the eloquent and fine delineation of your piece, I believe even you are missing, conceivably by design, the fundamental issue and truth.
We cannot share wealth we are not generating. Every baby born in the UK.carries a debt of £200,000.
We have to stop gobbling. We have to start sharing work and consumption. We use energy equivalent to having 200 slaves each . The so-called rich world is actually bankrupt yet it's assets are not seized. The money-makers stash away currency many times faster than the nominal inflation rate. Do the elementary school Math. We are knowingly blind and utterly selfish. Our leaders articulate words but not timely deeds, and are thus dissimulating pontificators, neither dishonest n
or misguided. Austerity is a term designed to express reluctance and avoid reality.
We must make major compulsory borrowing from bank accounts as did Argentina. For the most of us living like lords of the manor we have no right. When governments bite the bullet on our effete behalves only then will the
Slow genocide of the disenfranchised cease.
We can afford this if we really care at all. Where are the ads these days? Showing us slow death or pieces of depilated bronzed male and female anatomy. Wake upworld, and I didn't even mention climate!

Jessica M. Kraus said...

While the Olympics have placed Great Britain in the world spotlight once more, I feel that it does not really reflect the state of England's economy and social welfare. We should take that as a challenge to improve the economy and foster sustainability. So when the 2032 games comes around, we'll see on how much times have changed.

Susan Winston said...

At least it's a good move coming from the EU, that they are making their efforts in resolving different health-related issues. Hopefully, other countries all over the world follows their footsteps on creating more effective medical programs that can be very useful to everyone.

Roger Reynolds said...

On my point of view, we should all be aware and must participate in any event or activity that promotes any health-related growth of an individual in a community.