Plenary 1: Transitioning to more sustainable food systems that support health and wellbeing

Thursday 9 November, 14:00 – 15:00 Dublin time (UTC)

Organiser: EuroHealthNet 



Food is central to our health and well-being, yet many aspects of our food systems have become unhealthy and unsustainable. Our food systems today contribute significantly to, and are being destabilized by, the environmental crises we are facing. An increase in the consumption of low-quality diets is the leading cause of death and a major contributor to the burden of non-communicable diseases in Europe. Dietary guidelines issued by governments do not align at all with what is being produced, consumed, and exported.

Food systems have also contributed to creating, entrenching and widening health inequalities across Europe, as subgroups of the population have little access to and ability to choose healthy and sustainable food. In addition, the benefits of current food production and consumption systems go to large transnational companies rather than small companies and primary producers; the average EU farmer for example earns 50% of the average worker in the economy.

Major external shocks such as COVID-19 and the Russian war against Ukraine have reflected the vulnerability of our current systems of food production and redistribution, as experienced through growing levels of food inflation, food insecurity and hunger in Europe, and even more so in other parts of the world.

Ambitious intersectoral and systemic approaches are needed to address current contradictions in our food systems, and to make them more sustainable and resilient. Public health professionals need to step up their action to highlight the impacts of unhealthy food consumption, advocating and engaging in political debates. Promising policies at the EU level, such as the Farm to Fork Strategy, Sustainable Food Law, and on Food Security, set out planned measures to make food systems more environmentally friendly, fair and healthy. Ensuring that such policies are actually implemented, and that environmental, health and social considerations are valued in equal measure as economic ones, remains however a major challenge.

This plenary session will focus on what measures are urgently needed and must be prioritized to ensure more sustainable food systems and to improve health and well- being across Europe. The plenary will also discuss the challenges, and the role of health professionals in helping to achieve this critical shift.


Welcome by Moderators

Suzanne Costello, CEO, Institute of Public Health, Ireland
Caroline Costongs, Director EuroHealthNet

Video address
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General World Health Organization

Academic keynote: Setting the scene: converging crises: food, climate and health
Tim Lang, Emeritus Professor of Food Policy, City University of London, United Kingdom

Panel discussion: Measures urgently needed to address the food and climate crises and promote healthy, sustainable nutrition
Featuring short presentations by four inspiring panelists, followed by a discussion with the panellists and Professor Lang.

  • Driving change and tackling food insecurity at the global level through an ambitious policy agenda
    Francesco Branca, Director of the Nutrition and Food Safety Department, World Health Organization (video address)

  • Partnering across policy, science and business to radically disrupt our food systems
    Gunhild A Stordalen, Founder & Executive Chair, EAT Foundation

  • Driving sustainable changes to our food systems to improve the health of all and reduce inequalities and the role of public health
    Anant Jani, University of Heidelberg, Germany and Fellow Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, United Kingdom

Conclusion by Moderators