A Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, Lagos State University, Ojo, Professor Oluwatosin Adu has said that for Nigeria to have a successful and sustainable national, social and economic development programme, there is the need for majority of the population to be able to participate in the process and thus should be in good health and have good nutritional status.
He stated this while delivering the 91st inaugural lecture of the university, entitled: “Food for Thought: The Nexus between Nutrition, Health and National Development” on Tuesday.
According to him; nutrition plays a critical role in human resource development and a well-nourished healthy workforce is a precondition for sustainable development.
He explained that the pride of any government is the attainment of a higher level of development in such a way that the citizens would derive a natural attachment to governance.
“However, for a nation to be in a phase of development, there must be some prerequisites, which include socio-political and economic stability.
“At the same time, the nutritional wellbeing of a population is a reflection of the performance of its social and economic sectors and to a large extent an indicator of the efficiency of national resource allocation, “he stated.
Prof. Adu summarized a conceptual model of development that links economic growth to poverty reduction, improved nutrition and cognitive and physical development, which together generates increases in human capital.
“Increases in human capital then drive greater economic growth, which further fuels social sector investments in health, education and nutrition,” he disclosed.
The inaugural lecturer explained further that development goals are usually defined in economic terms under the assumption that nutritional status is directly linked to income and that impacts from macroeconomic growth would trickle down and have a nutritional effect at the household and individual levels.
He however said the reverse is also true: “the foundation of development is people and their cognitive and physical performance is ultimately what fuels national development.”
Prof Adu also added that according to Global Panel, 2016, a recent assessment suggested that under nutrition, micronutrient deficiency and overweight at today’s levels cost the global economy up to US$3.5 trillion.
This level of economic burden to him acts as a major impediment to government efforts to reduce poverty and to achieve important targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He therefore said that to put an end to this vicious cycle, policy makers, as well as political and industry leaders must have a deep understanding of the economic cost of malnutrition and the enormous returns on investment in nutrition.
In the case of Nigeria, the lecturer said the country has no reason being the poverty capital of the world. “Nigeria has no reason habouring the highest number of out of school children in the world and also has no reason carrying the burden of various preventable diseases which we have in the country currently.
He explain that financial and economic policy formulation requires deep thinking. Scientific and technological breakthroughs require great thinking and even eradicating crime and corruption and establishing public order also require a very high level of intelligence, adding that the progress to the quality of life of any nation is directly proportional to the quality of thinking of its people which in turn is directly influenced by the quality of food they have access to.
“Therefore, if we are serious about developing as a nation, we must begin to give serious attention to the nutrition of our people right from the womb to old age.”
While commending the Federal Government for formulating the National Food and Nutrition Policy, and the Lagos State Government for approving the adoption and domestication of this policy, Prof Adu recommended that all other states should as a matter of urgency follow suit.
He however urged the Lagos State Government to meet up the budgetary requirement for the Lagos State Multisectoral Strategic Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition (2019-2023).
“Although this is a huge investment in the face of other competing interests, but given the high returns on investment, the state government will be making a huge statement about its commitment to the human capacity development of the state.
He added that the management of LASU, as a matter of urgency, look into the establishment of a Nutrition and Dietetics Programme in the College of Medicine to provide admission for the teeming candidates who want to study Nutrition, increase the Nutrition content of our medical training and drive nutrition research for national development.
“I will also recommend that beyond the desire to increase the visibility of the research output of Faculty members, there should be a greater drive for adoption and commercialization of these research and innovation outputs.”