Urban food systems governance for NCD prevention in Africa
There is a rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) across Africa, driven in part by the increasing consumption of unhealthy diets (including ultra-processed and fast foods). Unhealthy diets are becoming more available because food systems, especially in urban parts of Africa, are changing rapidly as a result of urbanization and globalization. For instance, global fast food franchises are expanding aggressively across major cities in Africa. These changing food systems and the related rise in diet-related NCDs cannot be sufficiently tackled by national-level government policies. Diet-related NCDs are largely an urban problem, and there is a lack of urban-level research evidence available to local policymakers and stakeholders.
In collaboration with the University of Cape Town (South Africa), this project will review the current state of evidence regarding food systems, NCDs and their interactions in the case study countries. It proposes “urban-scale research” for addressing diet-related non-communicable diseases in six urban sites — Cape Town and Kimberley in South Africa, Nairobi and Kisumu in Kenya, and Windhoek and Oshakati in Namibia. The sites represent a mix of large and mid-sized urban populations experiencing progressive but varying degrees of change in their food systems, and varying but significant burdens of diet-related NCDs.
The main activities of this research project include conducting an assessment of consumption trends, food choices, and experiences with NCDs to understand the complex drivers of urban household food practices; mapping the local formal and informal food retail environment in order to understand the interactions between urban infrastructure and food retail; and analyzing urban and national policies and strategies relevant to food systems, as well as local government perspectives on their role in food system governance. Ultimately, the project aims to support local governments and community stakeholders in each study site to use the knowledge generated from this research to develop local action plans and interventions that will help to reduce the burden of food-related non-communicable diseases.