Dr. Laar addressing the audience at the Launch
The University of Ghana, in collaboration with an international team of researchers (the University of Sheffield, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana , Loughborough University, University of Liverpool, and the French Agricultural Research & International Cooperative Organization [CIRAD]) has launched a project at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research to investigate what drives unhealthy dietary changes in order to prevent diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The pioneering project will investigate dietary transitions in Ghana which, like many other African countries, is currently experiencing rapid change partly driven by increasing migration to cities.
These changes have resulted in people having unhealthier diets in cities, but there is limited understanding of the factors that drive dietary change - particularly the role that social environments play, such as family or friends, or the neighbourhoods that individuals live in, and their access to healthy food.
At the Launch, the Principal Investigator of the study, Professor Michelle Holdsworth, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), stated that
diets are changing globally and dietary transition is now happening in most cities of the global south, including countries in Africa, Central and Latin America and Asia, where people’s habits are changing from a traditional plant-based diet which are healthier to a diet that is high in processed, energy dense convenience foods, rich in fat and sugar, but poor in nutrients.
She added that unhealthy diets are associated with the rapid rise of diet-related diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and some cancers.”
Dr Amos Laar, Co-Principal Investigator and University of Ghana Lead in his speech underscored the need to undertake novel approaches for collecting data on food consumption and practices, and the factors associated with them. The different approaches he stressed included collecting the views of communities and stakeholders in identifying solutions to the problem of eating unhealthy diets which will include interviewing women and adolescent girls about what kinds of food they eat by using photography to explore the factors that influence these decisions.
The project is funded by a grant from the Drivers of Food Choice (DFC) Competitive Grants Programme which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development (DFID), and managed by the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, USA.
Professor Francis Zotor, Co-Principal Investigator and lead for the study in the Ghanaian city of Ho an Associate Professor for the University of Health And Allied Sciences in a brief speech highlighted that the research will also be mapping the food environment in people’s neighbourhoods to explore how features of the environment might influence people’s diets to help us identify interventions with local experts and policy makers that could be effective in improving diets and maintaining traditional dietary habits.
In attendance were the, Director of Public Affairs, University of Ghana (Mrs. Stella Amoa), Director of Research, Office of Research Innovation and Development (ORID), University of Ghana (Professor George Obeng-Adjei). Also present were Representatives from Ghana Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Services Non-communicable Diseases Programmes Unit.
A group photograph taken after the Launch.