Summer 2017

Good Food for a Secure Nation

A message from the dean of the Friedman School.

Based on scholarship from Tufts and beyond, we know our country faces a nutrition crisis. Our food system is the leading cause of poor health among Americans, causing an estimated 700,000 deaths and $350 billion in preventable health-care spending and lost productivity each year. Imagine the response if any other aspect of our nation was causing nearly 2,000 deaths and a $1 billion economic loss each day.

Obesity, diabetes and related conditions are at epidemic levels. Health care costs and premiums are skyrocketing, while productivity, profits and competitiveness of American businesses are being crippled. Federal and state budgets are similarly being decimated. Since the No. 1 cause of poor health—poor nutrition—is not addressed by the health system, is it any surprise that health-care costs continue to rise? The clear solution is prevention through a healthier food system.

Poor nutrition also threatens national security. Military readiness motivated the first nutrient guidelines (RDAs) in 1941, when President Roosevelt convened the National Nutrition Conference on Defense to ensure a battle-ready population. After many young recruits were found to be undernourished, Roosevelt launched the National School Lunch Program in 1945. Our military now faces a new challenge: rampant chronic diseases from low-quality food. According to the Department of Defense, obesity is the leading medical reason that talented recruits cannot enroll, while two-thirds of active-duty forces are overweight or obese. “Mission: Readiness,” a group of more than 700 retired admirals and generals, identified improving nutrition as a national-security priority.

Fixing our country’s nutrition crisis is crucial for health, the economy, global competitiveness of American business, and national security, as well as for reducing disparities and invigorating rural communities and agriculture.

As we have done for nearly 40 years, the Friedman School is committed to addressing these issues by producing trusted science, future leaders and evidence-based public impact. I invite you to review our new strategic plan (nutrition.tufts.edu/strategicplan). In addition to leading the way in cutting-edge research and education, we will further establish our position as a trusted voice in nutrition and launch a schoolwide strategy for advocacy, policy change and public impact. Our strategic planning process identified our strong school community as one of our unique hallmarks and strengths. You are part of that community, and I look forward to working together to address the complex nutrition crisis facing our country and the world.

Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H.

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