Nourishing Australia: a decadal plan for the science of nutrition
Australian Academy of Science (
Non-governmental organization (NGO)
Nourishing Australia sets out a strategy for realising the vision that Australian nutrition science plays a key role in improving long-term health and wellbeing globally, while delivering environmental, social and economic benefits nationally with core values of equity, sustainability, collaboration and innovation. The plan, a first for nutrition science in Australia, was developed by the Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Nutrition through a process of wide consultation with the research and industry communities. Successful implementation will result in health, wellbeing and economic benefits underpinned by values of equity, sustainability, collaboration and innovation.
Strategic plans for science are developed to assess a discipline’s current state of knowledge, identify and set priorities for the next decade and outline strategies to achieve these priorities and goals. The science of nutrition is entering an exciting era, with recent advances in measurement technologies, policy insights and complex data analysis, coupled with new theory frameworks that offer a promise of tackling many complex scientific and pressing societal challenges in which food and nutrition play a central role. The benefits of human nutrition extend across the whole lifespan and are a central determinant of not only health outcomes, but also quality of life and mental and physical productivity. Optimising nutrition can reduce the burden of malnutrition and stimulate workplace and economic productivity.
The science of nutrition informs high-quality diets and sustainable agriculture. The interactions between societal factors, food availabilities, dietary practices and nutrition outcomes are crucial in achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 2, but also another 10 goals, placing the discipline at the heart of the global drive for sustainable development. The plan recommends three enabling platforms, which together work towards implementing the SDGs: • A trusted, credible and evidence-based voice for nutrition information • Nutrition as a national research priority • A national capability for nutrition data.
Nourishing Australia is published by the Australian Academy of Science, prepared by an expert working group of the Academy’s National Committee for Nutrition, a volunteer committee that brings together societies, research institutions and industry groups with similar aspirations to provide an impartial platform to create cohesive strategies for nutrition science in Australia. The plan was supported by the Australian Government’s Linkage Learned Academies Special Projects fund and managed by the Academy over 18 months. The working group committed to taking a consultative approach in preparing the plan, engaging with a broad cross section of the nutrition community to develop the plan and to seek feedback and input. Importantly, initial input was given by the 2017 early- and mid-career researcher's Theo Murphy Think Tank ‘Rethinking food and nutrition science’, ensuring the voice of future researchers is reflected throughout the plan. The process for plan development involved: • consultation paper development • Sectoral, nation-wide consultation • draft plan development • finalisation of draft • publication, launch and the beginning of implementation. Implementation is overseen by the National Committee for Nutrition, working closely with cross-sector stakeholders and the community to ensure success. The plan is underpinned by a broad community consensus that was made possible by the highly consultative approach to its preparation. This provides great impetus for the wider nutrition community to carry the recommendations forward and realise their vision for the future. The National Committee plays a key role in facilitating the implementation process by encouraging sectoral engagement and providing an independent, impartial platform for discussion and cross-organisational engagement.
The plan makes three headline recommendations to ensure Australia’s food and nutrition security, improve health and wellbeing and reduce impact on the environment: 1. The science of nutrition becomes a national research priority, recognising the centrality of food and nutrition in addressing challenges and opportunities in health, social welfare, industry and agriculture. 2. The development of a national capability for nutrition data of the Australian food supply, societal, welfare, commercial and media environments, dietary intake patterns, nutritional status and health outcomes, including a focus on vulnerable groups and the social and financial challenges that limit healthy, sustainable and culturally appropriate nutritious diets. 3. The development of a national entity to provide a credible, independent, evidence-based voice to communicate evidence and advice around healthy diets and fact-check/myth-bust fads and health claims.
Due to the nature of nutrition science and culture, and the inherent conflicts of interest in industry and commercial sponsorship in this area, the practice would not have been achievable without funding from the Australian Government’s Linkage Learned Academies Special Projects fund, which enables learned academies to support the development of Australian research. The relationships established throughout the wider nutrition science community during preparation of the report were invaluable to the preparation and acceptance the plan and will be essential in implementing the recommendations.
The Australian Academy of Science produces strategic plans for a range of natural science disciplines through its National Committees for Science structure. In recent years, the plans and their mid-term reviews have increasingly included recommendations that support SDG implementation, including but not limited to sustainability, equity and diversity and impact on or support for nations in Australia’s neighbouring regions. Strategic plans for science are undertaken in several counties, most notably the United States, whose astronomy decadal survey directs significant spending on astronomy infrastructure and programs. In addition to advancing domestic research, strategic plans provide a mechanism to bridge the gap between grassroots activities and broad-reaching international frameworks, in order to facilitate support and action at national policy and decision-making levels.
The activity was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementation of the recommendations is a long-term, ongoing activity with a wide scope, and it is likely that activities may be impacted by the effects of COVID-19. These should be managed on a case-by-case basis by the parties responsible.
SDGS & Targets
Deliverables & Timeline
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