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Research award: Food, Environment, and Health

Deadline: September 6, 2017

Please note that all applications must be submitted online.

IDRC is one of the world’s leaders in generating new knowledge to meet global challenges. We offer a number of research awards providing a unique opportunity to enhance research skills and gain a fresh perspective on crucial development issues. These one‐year, paid, in‐house programs of training and mentorship allow award holders to pursue their research goals and work in one of IDRC’s dynamic program or division teams.

The main goal of IDRC’s Food, Environment, and Health (FEH) program is to improve health and prevent the burden of NCDs through food systems research and interventions in low- and middle-income countries. The world’s increasing capacity to produce, process, and trade food is accompanied by important changes in dietary patterns across all regions. A sharp rise in non-communicable disease burdens (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease) is imposing high human, social, and economic costs at all income levels. Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are disproportionately affected by rapidly rising rates of non-communicable diseases in younger populations that deteriorate health and strain economic resources for all. A common element of these issues is an unhealthy diet, defined by the quantity, quality, and diversity of foods consumed. Diets based on fresh and minimally processed foods have numerous health benefits for individuals, communities, and countries, including disease prevention, lower healthcare costs, and more productive societies. Innovative policies and community-oriented solutions can improve dietary quality and diversity, offsetting an increasing reliance on ready-to-consume, ultra-processed food and drink products that are nutritionally poor.

The FEH program invites research proposals that will improve understanding of developing countries’ food systems and explore how public policies and innovations can support healthy and sustainable diets for the prevention of chronic diseases. Wherever possible, we also encourage applicants to include measures of impact of such interventions on different social groups, on various actors in the food system, and on the natural environment.

Possible types and topics of research projects may include, but are not limited to:

  • Analysis of food systems trends and their impact on affordability, availability, and quality of healthy foods relative to ultra-processed foods.
  • Research to inform the design, implementation, and/or evaluation of fiscal and regulatory interventions aimed to increase consumption of fresh and minimally processed foods while reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods high in fat, salt, and/or sugar.
  • Exploration of the economic impacts (e.g. on revenues, employment, trade) of interventions designed to make food systems healthier and the data sources available to developing countries for such analyses.
  • Cross-sector analyses for improving coherence between various public policies and regulations (e.g. trade, agriculture, health) that impact the determinants of food systems, healthy diets, and prevention of non-communicable disease prevention.

In order to maintain a strategic and focused approach within the large and complex field of food systems research, please note that the following types of projects are outside the scope of the program:

  • research purely on issues of undernutrition, hunger, and food security
  • purely descriptive research on food-related health problems
  • product development, enrichment, fortification, or reformulation of individual food commodities
  • projects solely focused on improving food production, quantity, and/or access;
  • purely epidemiological observational studies
  • projects solely focused on education, social marketing, and/or individual behaviour change
  • projects solely focused on food safety

For more background on our program’s thematic areas of interest, you may wish to consult our program Web page. Informative materials provided on the website include lists of recently funded projects and an open call for research ideas.

The successful candidate will allocate 50% of his/her time to their own research project under the guidance of a program officer, and will be expected to present a research plan and provide updates on progress throughout the year. The remaining 50% of the time, the research award recipient will contribute to the management of the program through a variety of tasks, which may include synthesizing and disseminating project outcomes and results; preparing communication material; participating in project development, monitoring, and evaluation; and drafting internal and external reports. Interest in and aptitude for this work will be an important factor in the selection of the successful candidate.

Applicants should clearly outline their qualifications for this position, and explain how this opportunity will advance their career goals.

Who can apply?

To be eligible, you must meet the requirements stated in the IDRC Research Awards 2018 call page

Candidates should have the following qualifications:

  • Be enrolled in or have recently completed a graduate program in a discipline relevant to the promotion of multi-sector approaches to public health;
  • Knowledge of research for development;
  • Field experience in a developing country; and
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently.

Language requirements:

  • Strong verbal and written communications skills in English;
  • Proficiency in French is an asset.

This position is located at IDRC’s head office in Ottawa, Canada.


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