Newswise — Shauna Downs, assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, has been awarded a grant from the Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions program to develop tools that will allow researchers to measure natural and built food environments in low- and middle- income countries.

The tools developed by Downs and her colleagues will help low- and middle- income countries assess external and personal dimensions of wild, cultivated, and built food environments.

“Food environments are rapidly changing in low- and middle- income countries, contributing to the growing burden of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases, while undernutrition continues to persist,” says Downs who is part of the School’s Department of Urban-Global Public Health.

The tools will be part of a Food Environment Toolbox, which will address critical gaps in how food environments are measured and monitored in diverse settings over time.  

“The tools that we will develop will help standardize and systemize approaches to comprehensively evaluating food environments, which will enable the design and implementation of context-specific programs and policies to improve diets and health,” adds Downs. 

The various tools in the toolbox will examine a specific dimension of food environments that can then be used to evaluate the impact of interventions addressing food security, diets, nutrition, and health outcomes.

“The Food Environment Toolbox will be a ‘one stop shop’ for the selection and implementation of food environment tools as well as their data collection, analysis, and interpretation protocols,” concludes Downs.

“The Food Environment Toolbox: Tools to Measure Natural and Built Food Environments in Low- and Middle- Income Countries” project will begin in October of 2021.

Collaborators include: Suparna Ghosh-Jerath, Indian Institute of Public Health (Delhi), Public Health Foundation of India; Selena Ahmed, Montana State University; Anna Herforth, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Elizabeth Fox, Cornell University; and Jessica Hsu, an independent researcher, Haiti. 

To learn more about the toolbox, click here.


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