Social causes of malnutrition
What are social causes?
The social causes of malnutrition are those that are a consequence of society's actions. It can be the food choices of the parents or the corruption of governments. These are inherently social factors which can lead directly to malnutrition.
Lack of education
In the developed world educating the general population about good nutrition is neccesary to ensure that people have balanced diets. Good education starts in schools because this information will stay with the children usually for the rest of their lives. In addition once these children grow up they can teach their kids in turn about good dieting. In many schools there is often a lack of education about good nutrition. Reasons for this are because it does not fit into the curriculum or the school lacks resources to educate students on this. Parents may also lack the required knowledge to provide a healthy and adequate diet for their children. As a result parents often buy foods that are cheap and taste good, often processed foods. Processed foods lack vital nutrients because they are lost during the production process. While individuals absorb the correct or even excess amounts of primary nutrients, they often have a highly unbalanced intake of micronutrients such as sodium.
In developing countries the education system is already poor, the lack of nutritionists who will help educate people leads to poor nutrition. In many cases, even if there is a want to educate students, poverty overides the purpose of the education. In many developing countries the main factor is not from lack of education but rather lack of food.
The human mind is very susceptible to suggestions. For this reason, many large companies will employ all sorts of tactics to encourage an individual to buy a product. Fast-food advertising is a serious culprit when it comes to causes of malnutrition. Often food companies will associate a good image with the fast food. In children's advertising this was seen in the early 1960's when the clown Ronald Mcdonald was used to advertise Mcdonalds. Similarly today the adult market is often targeted by associating processed foods with 'good' ideas.An example can be seen when beautiful women and luxury are used to advertise top range ice creams. These images falsey portray the idea that ice creams will bring happiness. This is summarised below:
|McDonalds||Ice cream companies|
|Advertising tool||Clown Mascot||Beautiful women|
|Association||Happiness, image of a clown, entertaining.||Association with good life, luxury.|
|Link to Malnutrition||Causes children to associate happiness with fast food. Increased tendency to buy food. Fast food is usually high in sugar's, fats and sodium. Lead to overnutrition and micronutrient poisoning.||Causes people to associate ice cream with a good life. Increases tendency to buy ice creams. Ice creams are usually high in sugar's and fat, regular consumption can lead to overnutrition.|
While in some countries advertising food in prime time has decreased in part due to government restrictions, there is still substantial advertising of junk foods during prime time. This advertising persuades people to buy and consume often heavily processed foods which contain exceedingly high amounts of calories, fats, sugar and salt.
FIrst hand account
"We are concerned about the way that foods high in fat, sugar and salt are marketed to children...The McDonald's deal with MSN Messenger shows that those ways are becoming ever more imaginative and innovative (at advertising)"
An example of advertising targeting having a substantial effect is in the 1990's when Eastern Europe emerged from the cold war. Foods often associated with the west such as cola was heavily advertised. This led to a radical change in the east european diet from a traditional balanced diet to one that was highly processed. This diet was no longer balanced with the correct nutrients but was heavily unbalanced in one direction - usually sugars or fats.
In the last century there has been heavy corruption in the developing world, one of the biggest cases of corruption is in indonesia. President Suharto drained up to a massive 35 billion dollars from the indonesia economy during his term in office.
Corrupt governments can destroy a country through economic destabilsation and theft. These effects are not felt by those in power, but by those who they govern. Whilst corrupt governments do not affect the developed world significantly in terms of malnutrition, it has a very harsh effect on developing countries. Corrupt governments can affect malnutrition seriously in two ways:
- Firstly, they can drain money from the economy preventing vital agricultural infrastructure from being built.
- Secondly, they can horde and sell food, restricting food from getting to the citizens of the country.
In the last century there has been heavy corruption in the developing world, one of the biggest cases of corruption is in indonesia. President Suharto drained up to a massive 35 billion dollars from the indonesia economy during his term in office. While this was not money specifically allocated to agricultural products, it is more than likely that a significant amount of this money would have been used in projects related to agriculture. Another example of corruption is a former Bangladeshi prime minster dubbed "Sugar Zafar." Along with others, he intercepted and stole a shipment of sugar which was intended for flood victims in his country. This shipment was subsequently sold for millions of dollars. Below is a table summarising this:
|Power Source||President||Prime Minister|
|What did they steal?||Money||
|Intended use||Countries infrastructure. Education, agricultural infrastructure and the people all suffer because of lost money.||Foreign aid in the form of sugar was intercepted. Original use was to help feed those that had been affected by floods.|
|Cost on society||The population suffer from lack of money to build up farmland. Money that could be used to affect nutrition is pulled away.||Thousands suffer from malnutrition because food aid does not reach them.|
These are just two short examples of corruption that significantly affects the citizens within it. This can have a heavy impact on the citizens who often rely on the government to help them through rough times.
Often in countries with an inherently patriarchal construction the males are given precedence when it comes to food. The father and the sons will be fed first leaving what food is left over for the women. This is evident in countries such as india where it is the role of the women to cook and serve their husbands. In these countries the male child is put in a higher position than the female child. In times of difficulty the women will bear the brunt of the tough times often suffering from malnutrition.
Lack of Nutritional Knowledge a Cause for Malnutrition. (2007, February 2). News Archives. State House. http://statehousekenya.go.ke/oafla/news/feb07/2007020201.htm
World Hunger Facts: 2008. (n.d.). Why Are People Hungry? World Hunger Education. http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm
- Awwal, A.A. (2005) The vicious cycle of malnutrition http://nation.ittefaq.com/artman/exec/view.cgi/34/21403
- Caldicott, H. (1992). If You Love This Planet. WW Norton.
- Esterangel-ga, (2003) Malnutrition and its effects on the society http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=286986
- unknown (unknown) Kazi Zafar: The Sugar Thief http://www.muktadhara.net/kazizafar.htm
- Berget, J.P. (2007) Ronald Mcdonald and the secret behind McDonald's Success http://www.slymarketing.com/2007/08/ronald-mcdonald-and-the-secret-behind-mcdonalds-success/
Vltchek, A. (2008) Indonesia after Suharto - The king of the java forgiven http://www.asiana-press-agency.com/articles/2008-vltchek-0210.html