The Role of Public Health Nutrition in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Asia Pacific Region

Binns C, Lee MK, Low WY, Zerfas A. The Role of Public Health Nutrition in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Asia Pacific Region. Asia Pac J Public Health. 2017 Oct;29(7):617-24

Relevant to: 

Public Health Dietitian-Nutritionists working in middle to low-income countries who are interested in deepening their understanding of the relationship of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to nutrition and dietetic practice. 


This article discusses the role of public health nutrition, including the role of Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH) in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (2015-2030). This was completed through a literature search and document review from WHO, UNICEF and FAO websites. Findings were reviewed and presented at the 49th APACPH Conference held in South Korea in 2017. Each of the 17 SDGs were examined to link their relationship to public health nutrition.  

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

The authors argue that Public Health Nutrition is crucial in achieving the SDGs, and have outlined how nutrition relates to each the 17 SDG goals. They state that Schools of Public Health need to ensure that their education curricula need to include SDGs. They further suggest that Schools of Public Health need to include Public Health Nutrition as a core discipline given the importance of nutrition as a risk factor for the concerns within SDGs. Finally, they suggest that research needs to occur to define how to best target nutrition programming in different countries and regions. 


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDCs) in 2015, which included several goals and targets primarily related to nutrition: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. In the Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH) member countries as a group, infant and child mortality were reduced by more than 65% between 1990 and 2015, achieving the MDG target of two-thirds reduction, although these goals were not achieved by several smaller countries. The SDGs are broader in focus than the MDGs, but include several goals that relate directly to nutrition: 2 (zero hunger—food), 3 (good health and well-being—healthy life), and 12 (responsible consumption and production—sustainability). Other SDGs that are closely related to nutrition are 4 and 5 (quality education and equality in gender—education and health for girls and mothers, which is very important for infant health) and 13 (climate action). Goal 3 is “good health and well-being,” which includes targets for child mortality, maternal mortality, and reducing chronic disease. The Global Burden of Disease Project has confirmed that the majority of risk for these targets can be attributed to nutrition-related targets. Dietary Guidelines were developed to address public health nutrition risk in the Asia Pacific region at the 48th APACPH 2016 conference and they are relevant to the achievement of the SDGs. Iron deficiency increases the risk of maternal death from haemorrhage, a cause of 300,000 deaths world-wide each year. Improving diets and iron supplementation are important public health interventions in the APACPH region. Chronic disease and obesity rates in the APACPH region are now a major challenge and healthy life course nutrition is a major public health priority in answering this challenge. This article discusses the role of public health nutrition in achieving the SDGs. It also examines the role of APACPH in education and advocacy and in fulfilling the educational needs of public health students in public health nutrition. 

Details of results:

The authors provide a table outlining how public health nutrition is related to each the 17 SDG goals. Selected examples most relevant to sustainability food systems from the table include:  

SDG 2: Poverty (people that are poor cannot afford food, cooking facilities, storage); SDG 12: Responsible consumption and sustainable production (reduce food waste and environmental contamination) SDG 13: Climate action (in relation to its impact on food production); SDG 14: Life below water (sustainable fishing, aquaculture); SDG 15: Life on the land (sustainable agriculture production); SDG 16: Peace (wars fought over hunger, food and water supplies). 

Of additional interest:  

This ICDA toolkit includes briefs relating several of the SDG goals to nutrition practice at:  

These briefs also make recommendations for practice that supports the corresponding SDG. 

UN Sustainable development goals: 

Editor’s comment: 


Open access link to article: 


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Corresponding author: 


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