Improving child nutrition

Health systems in sub-Saharan Africa face a “triple” burden: a high prevalence of childhood malnutrition, an increase in diet-related chronic diseases, and an HIV epidemic that disproportionately affects women. Effectively addressing these problems requires action on a number of fronts: nutritional, health, social, economic, and environmental.

The research

This research focuses on two priorities in Ghana: the need for improved child nutrition, especially in vulnerable and in HIV-affected households, and the need to reverse increasing rates of childhood obesity in urban areas, brought about by easier access to fast foods and less exercise.

The team is developing integrated interventions to improve child nutrition by involving community, governmental, non-governmental, and private partners. Working in HIV-affected communities, the researchers are developing and testing ways of improving nutrition and young mothers’ knowledge and skills. They are also assessing the extent of childhood obesity and developing educational tools to encourage healthy eating habits among school-aged children. 

The project’s specific objectives are to:

  • develop a Centre of Excellence for Nutrition Field Training in Ghana;
  • provide doctoral training in nutrition and related fields to Ghanaian PhD students;
  • develop a community-based internship for Ghanaian and Canadian/international nutrition and dietetics students;
  • build on the existing collaboration between McGill University and the University of Ghana by jointly designing, supervising, analyzing, and disseminating research results on child nutrition.

Expected outcomes 

The project aims to:

  • set-up a teaching centre in Ghana that will become a sub-Saharan Africa Centre of Excellence for field training in community-based nutrition;
  • upgrade nutritional laboratories at the University of Ghana for local food and biochemical analysis;
  • strengthen the Community-based Health Planning and Services program developed by the Ghanaian health sector by training health providers in nutrition; and
  • improve child nutrition in Ghana through training communities and health providers.

Lead Researchers

Anna Lartey

IDRC Research Chair in Nutrition for Health and Socio-Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa University of Ghana, Ghana 

Anna Lartey is an Associate Professor and former Head of Department, Nutrition and Food Science, at the University of Ghana. Her research focuses on child nutrition. She has served as advisor for the World Health Organization (WHO) expert consultations on child nutrition. She also served as Co- Principal Investigator for the WHO Multicenter Growth Reference Study, Ghana site. A former member of the Ghana Food and Drugs Board, she was one of five African experts invited to a round table discussion with Melinda Gates. Lartey is a graduate of the African Nutrition Leadership Program, current Chairperson of the Africa Nutritional Epidemiology Conference, President of the Ghana Nutrition Association, and Africa’s representative on the Council of International Union of Nutritional Sciences.

After earning a BSc at the University of Ottawa, Anna Lartey completed a dietetic internship at Kingston General Hospital, Canada, and received a MSc from the University of Guelph. She holds a PhD in nutrition from the University of California-Davis where she was a Fulbright scholar. In 2004, Lartey won the University of Ghana’s “Best Researcher Award.”

Grace S. Marquis

Canada Research Chair in Social and Environmental Aspects of Nutrition McGill University, Canada 

Grace S. Marquis is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Social and Environmental Aspects of Nutrition at McGill University, Montréal. Her research career began 25 years ago at the Nutrition Research Institute in Lima, Peru. She received her doctorate in international nutrition from Cornell University in 1996 and taught for 10 years in the USA before joining the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill.

In 1999, her research group began working in Ghana, West Africa, a collaboration that continues to this day. Her community-based research examines how social, cultural, biological, and environmental factors interact and the mechanisms by which they alter a household’s ability to provide optimal nutrition and care for young children. Based on the knowledge acquired, her research group then develops alternative strategies to support child health and growth that are feasible for poor families.


Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

End Date

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


60 months

IDRC Officer

David O'Brien

Total funding

CA$ 1,000,000


Ghana, Peru, Canada


International Research Chairs Initiative

Project Leader

Anna Lartey


University of Ghana

Institution Country


Institution Website

Project Leader

Grace S. Marquis


McGill University

Institution Country


Institution Website