Emeritus Prof Mark L. Wahlqvist AO, BMedSc, MBBS, MD (Adelaide), MD (Uppsala), FRACP, FAIFST, FACN, FAFPHM, FTSE
Mark Wahlqvist is Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Monash University and Visiting Professor, Centre for Health Policy Research and Development, National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan.
He was educated at Adelaide and Uppsala Universities, is a Consultant Physician and has held chairs in Human Nutrition, Medicine, Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine between Melbourne’s Deakin and Monash Universities, Chair of Internal Medicine at Prince Henry’s Hospital, then the Monash Medical Centre, in Melbourne, Director of the APHNC (Asia Pacific Health & Nutrition Centre) at the MAI (Monash Asia Institute) and of the FAO Centre of Excellence in Food Safety at Monash University.
He has also held appointments at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the University of Indonesia and Zhejiang University in China. He was President of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, Chair of the Australian Nutrition Foundation (Nutrition Australia), Foundation Chair of the WMCACA (Weight Management Code Administration Council of Australia) , a Board member of ANZFA, the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (now FSANZ), Foundation Chair of the Food Safety Council of Victoria, chair of the Australian Academy of Science National Nutrition Committee, Foundation Editor-in-Chief of the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
His advisory board memberships have included the Harvest Plus program (International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington DC), the Riddet Food Research Institute at Massey University, New Zealand and the WHO Nutrition Advisory panel. He has been recognised with awards by the nutrition societies in Australia, Britain, the USA, Taiwan, Indonesia and China. He was awarded he Charlotta Medal by the Swedish Emigrants Research Institute and made an honorary Bataknese.
Ecology and health
Many of us are living longer and healthier lives than we could have imagined in previous generations. Many more are not. As the global population increases, the numbers of impoverished and hungry rise disproportionately, and the ecosystems on which we depend are lost or become dysfunctional with asymptotic speed. This trend is unsustainable- there must be a greater compatibility between us and our environment. The ‘growth’ that we so espouse cannot come at an ever greater environmental cost. One reason we have not personally and collectively grappled with this menacing trajectory is that we have not understood how ecological we are.
We are intimately connected to our locality through genomic convergence and cooperativity, biorhythms, energy throughput and regulation, locomotion, sensory inputs, hormonal and other homeostatic mechanisms, microbiomic pathways, other immune processes, our food systems and various inanimate factors which contribute to our environment and interaction with it (1). When these are perturbed, so are we; being synchronous with nature is a marker of our health. Across the spectrum of macro-ecology to cellular endosymbiosis (as proposed be Lyn Margulis), we have evolved as ecological beings and not as discrete individuals or a species. Unless we take this understanding into account, we, as health care practitioners and the health system in which we operate, cannot be fully effective. While we diagnose and manage health problems with criteria which are categorical for disability or disease, the underlying ecological contribution to these situations also merits attention. Perhaps this was less pressing when ecosystems were less compromised, but now we must actively and urgently take the precarious state of our ecology into account as explanatory and intrinsic to health promotion and care. We might usefully add to our diagnostic and management repertoire ‘ecosystem health disorders’ (EHD).
Present and future food systems, from production to consumption, are championed as ones which are amenable to technological remedy, improvement and sufficiency (2). This denies the extreme inequities and ethical dilemmas which now confront the availability and affordability of nutritious food patterns for an over-populated and conflict-ridden planet, challenged by massive ecosystem loss and degradation, in turn accompanied by disappearing waterways and groundwater or, conversely, storms and floods. In Asia alone, more than 2 billion people will have little potable water by 2050 or even earlier. No water means no food.
The ecological intersection of food and health systems is of critical importance in a world where access to both is at risk as our ecology is increasingly threatened.
1. Wahlqvist, Mark L. “Ecosystem Health Disorders-changing perspectives in clinical medicine and nutrition.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 23.1 (2014): 1-15.
2. Wahlqvist, Mark L. “Future food.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 25.4 (2016):706-714