Researching the obesogenic urban food environment, its drivers and potential policy levers in South Africa and Ghana
The food environment in many developing countries in Africa is deteriorating. In South Africa, for example, urban, peri-urban (areas surrounding urban areas), and increasingly rural households are becoming more reliant on unhealthy, ultra-processed food from the formal food and retail system. This situation has been attributed largely to rapid urbanization. The result is an obesogenic (causing obesity) environment leading to a prevalence of overweight and obese individuals, especially among the urban poor, alongside already high levels of undernutrition.
The aim of this project is to draw on methods from nutritional epidemiology, data sciences, value chain analysis, and policy analysis to understand the changing food environment. This includes analysis of the range, quality, and cost of foods acquired by poor consumers and the retail outlets that supply them; the food purchasing decisions of members of poor and vulnerable populations; the key suppliers of both healthy and unhealthy foods; and the industry dynamics, corporate strategies, and public policies that shape these food environments.
Ultimately, the project will identify specific opportunities and policies that create incentives for the production and consumption of healthier foods. The study team is multidisciplinary and the design will be a mixed-methods approach including surveys, interviews, and policy analysis. The project will be led in South Africa by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and in Ghana by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).