Systemic approaches to hunger and obesity: discoveries, innovations, and policies for the global food & health system


Gerald Steiner (Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University)
Eva Schernhammer (Harvard School of Public Health & Harvard Medical School)
Matjaz Mulej (University of Maribor & IRDO)

Call for papers

The core objective of this symposium is to develop more successful strategies in dealing with hunger and obesity as two sides of the same coin, considering the narrow window for food security and health. Topics of interest include food security in relation to malnutrition; poverty; cognitive potential; climate change; geopolitical risk; agricultural productivity; food price developments; human rights; the paradox of hunger and obesity; and other economic, political, technological, social/cultural and ecological implications. Ultimately, the aim of this symposium is to highlight various related challenges in the context of food security, to describe their interrelatedness, and to discuss potential innovative political implications. Therefore, various approaches of systems thinking, systems modeling, systems practice, and experimental as well as epidemiological approaches will be linked. Firstly, the complexity of the global food system and its interrelatedness with health issues need to be better understood. This includes the interplay of hunger, obesity, education, lifestyle, healthcare system, well-being, and geopolitical risk. Secondly, potential future scenarios (globally and locally) based on social, technological, structural, and political innovations and problem-solving approaches (e.g., from science-based to citizen-driven approaches) can help to enhance policymaking. The symposium aims to provide an extended systemic knowledge basis for food security & health policy strategies. Potential contributions may be of theoretical or practical nature.

At the end of this  symposium, all participants will have contributed to the development of a system model describing the interconnectedness and influencing factors of food security, which will serve as the basis for further collaborative work; this model will use the “System of Agriculture” model (IAASTD 2011) and related system models as starting points. Another core objective of this symposium is to build a basis for future collaborations and joint publications aimed at strengthening the knowledge basis for dealing with food security in the future.

Target groups

A systemic approach to hunger and obesity requires the joint effort of scientists from various scientific disciplines, policymakers, businesses (small scale as smallholder farmers to large scale as biotech industry), and innovative citizens. Special consideration will be given to student contributions. Hence, everyone is welcome!


All participants of this symposium will have the opportunity to provide feedback on each others’ contributions (either abstracts or papers) prior to the conference, as this will greatly reduce the time needed for presentations at the venue and leave more time for intense discussions.

Among all symposium contributions, the best will be invited to develop a full chapter of a book on “Discoveries, innovations, and policies for food security in our globalized world: a systems approach”.

Besides, the regulations valid for any submission to the EMCSR has to be complied with. Read more…