If I were a wealthy man there are two things I would do in the first place, I would found a Chair at one of our more progressive medical schools and instal in it a man whose duty it would be to give as part of the clinical training of every student a course of lectures in the prevention of disease by good food. Something must be done to dispel from the medical man's mind the idea that vitamins are a kind of medicine to be prescribed for certain disorders, much as you give quinine to counter malaria. It has been said with much wisdom that it is better to build a fence at the top of the cliff than to maintain an ambulance at the bottomincidentally, it is also cheaper. We do need to make it more clearly understood that, apart from all humanitarian considerations, the proper feeding of the people is a question of national insurance. This aspect of the future of nutrition has always seemed to me so obvious that it has surprised me that those whose job it is to understand the basic principles of insurance have not appreciated years ago its potential value to them. When I was in Canada recently I found, however, that they had got hold of the idea. One of the largest insurance companies in the Dominion is contributing 500,000 towards the cost of the national nutrition propaganda campaign because they are convinced that it is the most promising project for improving health and increasing expectation of life. The second benefaction I would make would be to finance the sending to each of about half a dozen countries of a small, well qualified and equipped team of young medical men and nutrition experts, trained to correlate on the spot information about diet and the incidence of disease. I would send one team to the heavy meateating areas of the South American plains. They would solve in a year or two the long disputed question whether very high protein intakes are harmful to health and liable to produce certain disorders. I would send another team to SouthEastern Europe to one of the areas where the peasants live almost entirely on vegetables, coarse bread and goats' milk. Is it true that these people have a very low incidence of digestive disorders and hardly ever suffer from cancer of the digestive tract We do not know, but a team using standardised methods of examination and survey would not be long in finding the truth. Dr. Sinclair and his Oxford Nutrition Survey team has prepared the model of what is required. Such teams will, I believe, be widely used in the postwar years. They may actually be required even earlier. They would be invaluable if they could be rushed into territories as soon as they are liberated from the enemy, where their task would be to survey and advise on the nutritional conditions of the liberated peoplewhich in many cases, we fear, are likely to be grievous. War has few virtues. One undoubtedly is that activity in many fields of enterprise is enormously stimulated. Another is that problems can often be lifted clear of the arena of political dispute. This war of liberation will offer some compensation for the devastation and waste of human effort if it brings nearer by years the day when every man, woman and child can be assured that they will never know the want of the foods on which their health depends. Not until that day dawns can the Atlantic Charter, calling for freedom from fear, freedom from want, become reality.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 1, 1944
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