Improving Nutrition for All
Consider the causes and effects of key nutritional problems - including undernutrition and overweight and obesity - and analyze their global impacts. Students will explore solutions to nutrition issues facing both the U.S. and the world at large. After finding several news articles addressing a nutrition issue of their choice, students compose a letter to the editor that articulates their opinions on how the problem should be addressed.
Nutrition is an essential component of a healthy and productive life. Across the world, nearly a billion people experience undernutrition, one form of malnutrition. This means they do not consume a sufficient amount of calories, protein, and nutrients to meet their bodies’ basic needs. This can impact physical growth and brain development, as well as the immune system’s ability to fight off disease.
At the same time, more than a billion people in the world consume excess calories that their bodies don’t need. This increases people’s risk of becoming overweight or obese, and developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. While this problem once primarily affected developed countries like the U.S, it is becoming a growing concern in the developing world as well.
You will begin by researching the nutritional needs of the human body. You will then explore problems and possible solutions related to nutrition in the U.S. and the world. Finally, you will search a news website and select a nutrition issue currently facing the U.S. or another part of the world. You will respond to the article with a letter to the editor, in which you will use what you’ve learned to discuss the local and global impact of the issue, as well as your opinion of how it should be addressed.
Print the information collection worksheet and use it to record information as you work through the activity.
Your work will be evaluated according to the chart on the extension tab below.
How does the human body meet its nutritional needs?
While nutritional needs vary somewhat from person to person depending on sex, age, weight, and activity level, there are key nutrients that all human bodies need for growth, development, and disease prevention.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture represents the recommended proportions of fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy using the graphic shown below.
Using the links below, review each food group and record the nutrients and health benefits each group provides.
What are the consequences of undernutrition?
Undernutrition is a form of malnutrition in which a person does not eat a sufficient amount of calories and nutrients to meet their body’s basic needs. For children, this can be a serious concern preventing their proper growth and development.
One indicator of proper nutrition is children’s growth. Visit the World Health Organization’s nutrition facts.
- What are the causes and effects of stunted growth? How do you think this could affect children later in life?
Another way of measuring undernutrition is children’s weight. View the data set Estimated Prevalence of Underweight Preschool Children 1990-2020
- What trends do you notice in the percentages of children who are underweight?
- How do the trends differ between developed and developing countries?
- How do you think poverty is related to nutrition?
What are some ways to address undernutrition?
Learn about several approaches to addressing undernutrition.
What are the benefits and challenges of each approach?
In what situations would you recommend each approach?
- Preserving a Balance Diet with Solar Dryers by Elyse Petersen, Eastern Caribbean (video below)
- Food distribution, World Food Programme
Preserving a Balanced Diet with Solar Dryers
Overweight and obesity in the world
Consuming more food than the body needs—especially foods high in calories and low in nutrients—is another type of nutritional problem. People who take in more energy from food than their bodies are able to use can become overweight or obese. This can increase their risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Overweight and obesity are often measured using Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated using height and weight. You can use the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) website to see how Body Mass Index is calculated.
- A BMI above 25 is considered overweight.
- A BMI of above 30 is considered obese.
Create a world map of the average BMI by country. Open the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Info Base and follow the instructions underneath the Supporting Documents section above for creating a map using WHO data.
- What trends do you notice in the worldwide prevalence of overweight and obesity?
- How does the U.S. compare to the rest of the world?
- How do you think obesity and economics are related?
Overweight and obesity in the U.S.
View your state on the Center for Disease Prevention and Control map of national obesity trends.
- How have overweight and obesity rates in your state changed over time? How have they changed nationally?
View the video The Obesity Epidemic
- What are some of the challenges related to the obesity epidemic? Which ones are most prevalent in your community?
- What are some steps to reducing the obesity epidemic? Which ones do you think would work best in your community?
Analyzing Current Issues
Now that you have some background on nutrition concerns in the U.S. and in the world, you will analyze a specific current issue.
Begin by searching the Associated Press or NewsLink for a recent article related to a globally-relevant nutrition issue. In one sentence, summarize the main problem the article is discussing. What are some of the keywords that describe the problem?
Now, use the keyword(s) to search for a second article from another news source. If possible, find an article discussing how the problem affects a different part of the world. What are the similarities and differences between the authors' views on the issue?
Finally, write a letter to the editor in response to one of the articles you read. Respond to several points from the article using the information you’ve gathered about the issue. Conclude your letter with your own opinion on what should be done to address the problem.
Reflect on your experience by writing about or discussing:
- How does nutrition affect your daily life? How does it affect the daily lives of others?
- In considering nutrition as a global issue, what do you see as the most crucial challenges to address?
- How are economics and nutrition connected?
- What can we do to improve nutrition in our own communities and in the world?