Current Project

Food Choices Project: Dietary transitions in African Cities

Program: Health and Systems for Health

Driven in part by the increasing migration of individuals to cities in many African countries, a change in dietary habits has been observed, with increasing consumption of unhealthy foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. This change in dietary practices has resulted in increasing levels of obesity in cities, with higher rates among women. Policy responses have also lagged behind this growing concern, with any in existence having limited success so far since they are mostly influenced by evidence from higher income countries and are less relevant to the African context.

There is also little known about the factors that drive food consumption in African cities, particularly the role that people’s social networks play (e.g. family or peer groups), the neighborhoods that they live in (e.g. access to fast food outlets), and economic factors, among others.

This project will explore the factors that are associated with food consumption patterns (what people eat) and practices (how, where, when and with whom they eat) within two African cities (Nairobi and Accra). We will undertake novel approaches for collecting data on food consumption patterns and practices and the factors associated with them. The different approaches will entail the use of existing scientific evidence, as well as capturing the views of local communities and stakeholders in identifying solutions to the problem of unhealthy dietary practices. To do this, we will:

  • review the extent of evidence in published research, and through analyzing existing information on dietary behaviors;
  • interview people about the kinds of food they eat and how they eat it;
  • use photography with a local community to explore the factors that influence food choices; and,
  • map the food environment in the same local neighborhood (e.g. location and type of food outlets) to explore how characteristics of the environment might influence people’s food choices.

Based on the results of the above, we will identify the range of factors associated with dietary patterns and practices. With the support of local experts and policymakers, we will then compare these factors to current policy approaches in these settings to assess which gaps may require addressing, and identify interventions that may be useful.

The proposed research will strengthen existing partnerships, build new ones, and enhance capacity in research. This will pave the way for the development of new interventions that are more likely to be effective. We will also share our results more widely with experts and policymakers from other African cities via webinars, social media, and regular project website updates.

Read about the project on this blog. Please also visit the project website for more information.


Project period

  • Start date: April 2017
  • End Date: March 2019



Project Funders

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