Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M Institute for Advancing Health Through Agriculture, or IHA, recently testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture to document that swift action is needed to reverse the increasing rates of diet-related chronic diseases and their subsequent economic burden on health care systems and costs.

Given that many of the drivers of chronic disease are related to diet, health behaviors and our food systems, Stover was poised to provide insightful comments on our health care burdens, saliently offering solutions. The IHA’s research aims to align precision nutrition, responsive agriculture and healthy living as a solution to the pressing health crisis affecting all Americans.

Medical costs associated with diet­-related diabetes alone total more than $327 billion annually.

“Agriculture and food are the only feasible solutions to address our skyrocketing health care costs. We need to develop a systems-based approach to connect agriculture, food, nutrition and human health,” said Stover.

Stover leaning on pillar
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M Institute for Advancing Health Through Agriculture, recenty gave testimony in front of the full U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

The committee hearing focused on federal nutrition programs. In his testimony, Stover cited the disproportionate impact of chronic diseases and food insecurity and associated costs on rural, underserved and underrepresented communities, underscoring the urgent need for agriculture-centered responsive solutions.

“We need to continue the work to eliminate hunger while expanding our mission to also ensure that our food environments promote human health,” said Stover. “Both the food environment that consumers experience and consumer health behaviors need to be addressed together through sound policy grounded in high-quality scientific evidence that is lacking at this time.”

A strong evidence base is needed to ensure that the best science drives policy.  To this end, Stover created the Agriculture, Food, & Nutrition Evidence Center at Texas A&M University. He also emphasized that the United States has made successful advances through nutrition and agriculture already, but that hunger and health must become the new endpoints for our food systems to adapt to if we are going to tackle the problem of chronic diseases.

“Farmers and ranchers have always been prepared to meet the needs and expectations of the nation, they feed America, and want to be part of the solution to help all Americans,” Stover said.

Stover, an international leader in biochemistry, agriculture and nutrition, is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has more than two decades of academic leadership experience, including serving as Vice Chancellor and Dean at Texas A&M AgriLife. Last month, he was named the 2023 W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecturer for his outstanding contributions to nutrition research.

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