LSHTM awarded major funding to drive innovation needed to improve nutrition and health

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is to lead a £13.6 million major cross-disciplinary research programme to address global malnutrition and related health issues.
Caption: Market traders in Bangladesh. Credit. Thalia Sparling

It is estimated that over 2.4 billion people – almost a third of the world’s population – suffer from some form of malnutrition, which includes nutrition-related chronic conditions and undernutrition.

Poor diets are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally, with healthy diets estimated to save one in five lives. Agriculture-food systems, such as farm production, processing, transport, marketing, consumption and disposal, shape diets through multiple, complex and dynamic pathways.

While progress is being made to address global malnutrition, rapid social, economic and environmental changes mean that food system-related challenges continue to evolve, hence there is now an urgent need to ensure that the research agenda moves with these changes to drive policy investments that are evidence-informed.

Funded by UK Aid and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the second phase of IMMANA (Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions) runs from 2019-2024, and will stimulate the development of novel tools, methods and metrics for tracking how rapidly changing food systems interact with nutrition and health.

Led by Dr Suneetha Kadiyala, in partnership with Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Food Policy, Tufts University, SOAS, University of London and the London Centre of Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH), IMMANA will bring together researchers from around the world exploring the role of agriculture as a source of food, employment and income, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).  

Through a package of competitive research funding calls, career development fellowships, and a multi-disciplinary global network, the programme will stimulate the generation, ground-testing and sharing of cutting-edge tools and technologies.

Dr Kadiyala said, “We are delighted to have received the second round of funding for this important programme. Food systems and consumption patterns are changing due to multiple opportunities and stresses, from urbanisation, migration, trade and regulation, to widening inequities and environmental constraints. Therefore, we need more robust methods and metrics to study these evolutions and the impacts they have on human and planetary health, drawing from various disciplines. This will enable us to guide policy investments that are feasible, scalable, equitable and cost-effective, which will ultimately help to improve and save lives around the world.”

IMMANA Competitive Research Grants

Building on a successful first phase, established with the support of UK Aid from 2015-2019, the new and expanded second phase of IMMANA – in which the Foundation has now come on board – will fund innovation and testing of methods, metrics and tools that span a broad domain of interest. However, there will be one overarching aim: to improve nutrition and health of populations in LMICs. Reflecting this breadth of research, the expansive range of grant outputs from IMMANA’s first phase include novel indicators that measure household water insecurity, women’s empowerment in nutrition decision making, and affordability of nutritious diets, as well as modelling tools that identify nutrient gaps in local food systems and technologies that capture household energy expenditure.  

IMMANA Fellowships

IMMANA’s Fellowship and Mentorship programme is a unique initiative aimed at supporting emerging leaders to undertake policy relevant multidisciplinary research on food systems for nutrition.  Directed by Professor Will Masters at Tufts University, the Fellowships are directed at fostering capacity of future changemakers in the validation or application of recentlydeveloped methods and metrics through research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Over the next five years, IMMANA will fund and support 24 Fellowships of one year each, over four rounds.

The Agriculture Nutrition & Health Academy

Through its embedded Agriculture, Nutrition & Health (ANH) Academy – a global network of over 2,000 researchers, practitioners and policymakers, co-led by LSHTM, LCIRAH and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) – IMMANA will continue to play a central role in convening different academic disciplines and sectors around the shared goal of optimising agriculture-food systems to improve nutrition, health and environment outcomes.

Membership of the ANH Academy is free and open to researchers and practitioners with an interest in pursuing more healthy, equitable and sustainable food systems.

ANH Academy co-lead, Joe Yates, said, “It’s a big tent ethos, so whether you’re an anthropologist, food historian, gender specialist, an agricultural economist, environmental scientist or NGO practitioner, we encourage you to join. Pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – for which the importance of agriculture-food systems cannot be understated – requires collective, joined-up thinking on a grand scale.”

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