We here at Better the Future believe that reducing the prevalence of chronic disease throughout life starts by promoting healthy, nutrient-rich diets based on wholesome foods – before conception, during pregnancy and lactation, and in infancy and early childhood. Our beliefs are grounded in the science of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, or DOHaD.
DOHaD provides the scientific understanding for how the environment we are exposed to before birth and for the first 1,000 days following conception affects our risk for developing chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. At the heart of this science is how the nutritional environment of adolescent girls and women affects not only their own chronic disease risk, but that of future generations as well.
Based on rapidly increasing rates of obesity and diabetes, we know the health of Americans is declining. Three generations of consuming a highly-processed diet lacking in nutrients has led us to this point. It is imperative to change our current food culture in order to impact the increasing rates of chronic disease in this country.
However, we know change isn’t easy, especially the big social changes needed to impact what and how we eat. Change takes time. It takes individuals making small changes for themselves. It takes groups working together to impact change within their communities, schools and workplaces. It takes legislators passing policies that impact positive change across all socioeconomic groups.
We can see the changes happening around us through increased interest in where our food comes from and how it is produced. Even 10 years ago many of these changes would have been hard to imagine:
- Restaurant chains and major food producers using antibiotic-free meat, locally-sourced produce and removing artificial colors and flavors from their food
- SNAP benefits being accepted at the ever-growing number of farmers markets
- Increased awareness of food deserts and efforts to minimize them
People have many reasons for wanting to change our food culture – from improving their own health, to improving the health of our planet, to ensuring equitable pay and jobs for employees across the food system. We at the OHSU Moore Institute created the Better the Future blog to help catalyze this movement by offering a scientific justification for the changes already happening. We strive to offer compelling, accessible articles that are grounded in science. Articles focus on how our food culture impacts chronic disease and highlight the multiple social, cultural and economic factors that shape how and what we eat. Most articles conclude with three tangible steps – a crawl, a walk and a run – that readers can take to make an impact to our current food culture.
These steps are designed to get us to stop and consider an idea. They will encourage readers to think about why our food culture is structured the way it is and begin to notice how our lives are influenced by it.
These steps move beyond thinking and discovering on our own to begin to influence the people closest to us. These steps will encourage small changes that can begin to impact our families, friends and coworkers. Most people will find these steps manageable with few resources or additional help.
These steps move beyond the comfort zone of our close social circles to offer ways to influence the communities in which we live. These steps will give the reader ideas of how to work with others to influence programs, policies and change on a broader level.
While some of us may be ready to take off running right away, others may need time to learn to crawl. We come from different backgrounds and have differing motivations for wanting to influence change to our food culture. We hope somewhere within these steps everyone can find a comfortable place to begin. As the famous quote from Margaret Mead says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Explore the blog and follow Better the Future on Twitter and Facebook to begin listening to the conversation.
Start a conversation
Ask a friend or coworker whether they have heard about how nutrition before we are born affects our risk for developing chronic disease later in life. See where the conversation leads, you never know what you both might learn from each other, or the ideas you might spark to make a change.
Volunteer with local groups
Look into groups in your area that are advocating for change to the food culture. The local health department, health systems and non-profit agencies are great places to start. Find out whether they have volunteer opportunities, or whether you could help by writing to an elected official or attending a public meeting to show your support for issue they are trying to advance