Improving food policies and enabling healthier diets for preventing non-communicable diseases in the West Bank
Low fruit and vegetable consumption is tied to poor health and higher risks of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). A survey carried out in 2010-2011 in the West Bank and Gaza revealed consumption patterns significantly below WHO’s recommended values, with more than 85% of the population between 15-65 years of age consuming less than five servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day. Several factors contribute to this dietary deficiency, including availability, affordability, lack of awareness of nutritional quality and health benefits, as well as outdated agriculture and food policies.
This project, implemented in collaboration with Birzeit University, will explore these factors and recommend effective interventions for increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables in different population groups. Research sites include urban and peri-urban populations of Ramallah and refugee camp populations in al-Bireh governorate.
Key dimensions that shape local food environments in these settings will be assessed together with associated dietary patterns, including existing policies related to fruits and vegetables across different sectors (e.g. agriculture, trade, environment, health, education) to identify obstacles and barriers that hinder adequate dietary consumption; awareness in different population groups about associated health benefits and risks (nutritional and food quality aspects); availability, affordability, acceptability, and consumption patterns of both healthy fresh foods and unhealthy food commodities; household food waste and food losses throughout the local fruit and vegetable food chains; and a first estimation of average costs of a healthy diet and a healthy basket for the different study communities. A gender equity lens will be used in exploring challenges and potential benefits faced by women in overcoming existing barriers to healthier dietary improvements in households and communities.
The research will generate a first body of local knowledge and evidence across different food environments of the West Bank. It will guide decision-makers, academics, farmers, and other key stakeholders in identifying and formulating policy interventions that increase availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables, along with clear recommendations to promote home and small-scale production.