Connecting environment, nutrition and health
Humanity faces profound questions over how our planet can sustain and feed 9 billion people by 2050. There is a global nutrition crisis, with a dual problem of hunger and obesity. Meanwhile, climate change has major implications for global health and nutrition - with impacts on food security, access to clean water and sanitation, population migration and the threat of an increased number of natural disasters. Research has a critical role in meeting these challenges by delivering solutions that are appropriate to cultural, social and economic contexts.
Understanding the complexity of risk factors and the elements that influence lifestyle decisions will be key to improving public health. To cause a fundamental shift in behaviour, both for individuals and populations, we must engage the public effectively and explore the hopes, needs and concerns of society.
The Wellcome Trust wants to foster multidisciplinary research to address these problems. We want to inform the global response, and will work in partnership with others to put health at the core of sustainable development.
Examples of our funding
This is an emerging challenge for the Trust and we will be developing our response to it over the next ten years. The following illustrates the work we have funded with relevance to this challenge.
Through the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, the Wellcome Trust supports Centres of Excellence in Public Health Research such as The Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) and the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer) that study factors that influence dietary and activity related behaviours, develop and evaluate interventions, and help shape health practice and policy in this area.
Pedro Hallal's Investigator Award is focused on understanding the determinants and consequences of physical activity informing interventions and policy for global action.
A trial of an innovative behaviour change intervention to promote handwashing with soap in households in rural India showed a 16 per cent increase in observed handwashing with soap in the intervention arm, compared with controls. The apparent success of this intervention makes it a potentially important public health tool.
The Task Force on Climate Change Mitigation and Public Health, supported by a consortium of funding bodies and coordinated by the Wellcome Trust, concluded that many measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have positive impacts for health. The study looked at household energy, transport, food and agriculture and electricity generation and the findings have been widely used by the World Health Organization in climate change negotiations.
Research to examine the interdependence between humans, animals, microbes and their environment is vital to understand the complex relationship between risk factors and health consequences. The Insect Pollinators Initiative will lead to a better understanding of the threats to insect pollinators and our funding for the Millennium Seed Bank (Kew) is helping to conserve worldwide flora.
Technology company Thermofluidics has received a Translation Award from the Wellcome Trust to develop an innovative, low-cost irrigation pump to improve the health of smallholders in low-income countries.
In this short interview for Wellcome Trust, Sir David Attenborough discusses some of the most pressing issues facing the environment, humanity's future and how we might address those challenges.
Running time: 6 mins 56 s