AMA Adopts Sustainable Food Policy

The American Medical Association (AMA) has approved a new policy resolution in support of practices and policies within health care systems that promote and model a healthy and ecologically sustainable food system.

The resolution also calls on the AMA to work with health care and public health organizations to educate the health care community and the public about the importance of healthy and ecologically sustainable food systems that "provide food and beverages of naturally high nutritional quality." The policy was approved at the 158th annual meeting of the AMA in Chicago.

"As our country wrestles with health care reform, the role of health care providers and facilities in providing education and leadership to help the population understand the link between the way we produce food and individual health is significant and cannot be overstated," said Jamie Harvie, director of the Health Care Without Harm Sustainable Food Work Group. "Preventing disease is paramount in the provision of health care. Hospitals, physicians and nurses are ideal leaders and advocates for creating food environments that promote health. This policy is an important contribution to a prevention-based healthcare delivery system."

The AMA's new Sustainable Food policy builds on a report from its Council on Science and Public Health, which notes that locally produced and organic foods "reduce the use of fuel, decrease the need for packaging and resultant waste disposal, preserve farmland ... [and] the related reduced fuel emissions contribute to cleaner air and in turn, lower the incidence of asthma attacks and other respiratory problems." Industrial food production is a significant contributor to increased antibiotic resistance, climate change, and air and water pollution.

"Physicians now recognize that one cannot easily separate the health of food from how healthfully that food is produced," said Dr. David Wallinga, an attendee at the meeting, the Wm. T. Grant Foundation Distinguished Fellow in Food Systems and Public Health at the University of Minnesota, and a member of Health Care Without Harm. "The profligate use of antibiotics and fossil fuels in today's food system, for example, is directly linked to climate change and to the epidemic of antibiotic resistant infections, in hospitals and in communities."

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