Global health conference explores ecosphere, hunger

The crisis of world hunger likely has endangered humans since they came to exist. But the problem is about to get much worse, and not just for third-world dwellers with distended bellies and protruding ribs.

“Nearly one billion people are hungry every day,” Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, stated at the fourth annual Heartland Global Health Consortium (HGHC) conference at DMU Oct. 17. “We no longer have the global stockpiles of rice and grain. The 2008 spike in food prices pushed some 100 million people into poverty.

“Our world ignores this problem at its peril,” he warned. “Food security is about our security, our morality and global health.”

Offenheiser pointed to global warming that hurts the poor the most, the world’s “broken” food aid and distribution systems, subsidized corn production that feeds cars versus people, and continued injustice toward small-holder farmers as factors that “risk a wholesale reversal in human development.” Urging actions to counter these factors, he also noted “simple things we can all do: grow better by reshaping agriculture; share better; and live healthier.”

Another conference speaker, Ric Jurgens, probed that third point as president of the board of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, a privately led public effort to make Iowa the nation’s healthiest state – based on the independent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index – by 2016.

“Individuals, institutions and the state all can benefit from having healthier people,” said Jurgens, chairman of the board and retired CEO of the grocery store chain Hy-Vee Inc. “We need people walking their dogs, pushing their babies in the stroller, playing in the backyard with their kids…We want to get families to eat together, eat on smaller plates, eat more slowly and eat more fruits and vegetables.”

HGHC is a group of Iowa colleges and universities, including DMU, that collaborate to offer international learning opportunities to students.

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