Historical and epidemiological transitions in urban Caribbean foodscapes: understanding the past to enhance future healthy eating

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter

Abstract

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Technical Summary

Current public health strategies fail to effectively promote adequate nutrition in populations, because they focus on individuals' behaviours and choices without addressing larger influences such as food cultures and food systems. Instead, healthy environments need to be created that enable easy access to healthy and nutritious food. Cities in an increasingly urbanising world are ideal places for such transformation.
The Caribbean region has identified chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease as a major threat to population health, social and economic development, and has made a concerted commitment to address this problem through a comprehensive, multi-sectoral response that includes urban planning. To inform their efforts and
accelerate action, we propose a cross-disciplinary project to understand historical and epidemiological transformations in two neighbouring but contrasting cities, Kingston (Jamaica) and Port-au-Prince (Haiti), to be able to identify the ways cities in low and middle income countries impact on their populations' food practices, opportunities and in turn health. We aim to
develop an in-depth understanding of underlying mechanisms that have led to both 'unhealthy' spaces (e.g. fast food dense neighbourhoods) or 'healthy' spaces (e.g. urban gardens). By investigating how these social, political and economic determinants of nutrition have developed and shaped into contemporary foodscapes, the goal of our project is to inform the
prevention of chronic diseases by enhancing healthy eating strategies. The project will map health data onto the historical data to produce an interactive map of the evolution of foodscapes, which will be used to engage with both policymakers and the public as a tool to aid the creation of healthy environments that enable easy access to healthy and nutritious food.
Under the guidance of leading historians and global health researchers, early career researchers at the University of the West Indies will conduct feasibility research merging methods from historical and health research. A historical work package will use online newspaper archives, and innovatively combine with interviews with local experts to examine
changes in urban population growth and urban inequality and its impact on food production and consumption, the availability of food outlets, and dining habits from the Second World War to present. A health work package will examine major epidemiological trends in nutrition for the same time frame and assess its impact on NCDs through an analysis of existing public health survey and routine data, and combine this analysis with focus group data on contemporary food
practices and choices. This feasibility fieldwork will be carried out in Kingston, Jamaica, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in preparation for the development of a larger follow-up grant proposal expanding to the wider region and similar settings.
This feasibility work will be prepared during a Project Co-Development Workshop in Jamaica to which we will invite regional stakeholders from academia, government and civil society (e.g. health NGOs) to agree on common research goals that tie into current practice and policy projects (e.g. regeneration plans for parts of Kingston); and it will be consolidated in a final
Project Co-Analysis Workshop to analyse the data and develop a sustainable collaborative research strategy and future projects.
Melding humanities and epidemiological methods and expertise, we propose a highly innovative project with a research question novel for both fields, and based around a unique collaboration. It will build the methodological capacity needed to understand the mechanisms that have produced 'unhealthy' and reduced 'healthy' foodscapes in urban areas in low and
middle income countries, which is essential for urban planners working to create healthy urban food environments.
 
Description Transdisciplinary data assemblages for a socio-historical understanding of the formation of Caribbean food systems
Amount £165,350 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/T00407X/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2019 
End 12/2021
 
Description University of Exeter GCRF Facilitation Funding
Amount £41,794 (GBP)
Organisation University of Exeter 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2019 
End 07/2020
 
Description Contribution to other GCRF AHRC project 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Co-investigators contributed to the PRAXIS project as interviewees, attended a workshop and critically commented on the final report
Collaborator Contribution Giliberto and team invited co-investigators to an event the University of Leeds that enabled us to share our research findings with a wider audience and build further networks.
Impact Giliberto F. (2021). Heritage for Global Challenges. A Research Report by PRAXIS: Arts and Humanities for Global Development. Leeds: University of Leeds.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Haiti foodscapes pilot study with NIHR Global Diet and Activity Research (GDAR) network 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department MRC Epidemiology Unit
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Due to the difficult political situation in Haiti, the Haiti pilot study initially planned as part of our grant could not be fully realised despite investing time in developing a partnership with colleagues at the State University of Haiti. We are therefore grateful to be able to partner with the GDAR network at the MRC Epidemiology unit to continue the work with our Haitian partners through this small internal grant. With this funding we are able to replicate the work conducted in Kingston, Jamaica, in Port au Prince, Haiti, as developed and prepared during our project. The overall aim is to investigate the evolution of foodscapes in the Haitian capital, Port au Prince, since 1945, thus building on the work in Kingston Jamaica and complementing research on sustainable urban development in GDAR. This involves tracing changes in foodscapes in Port au Prince and exploring how these relate to changes in the burdens of malnutrition. We are also able to add new stakeholder and community interviews to connect to research aims within the GDAR network. It is intended that the study's findings will inform further policy relevant research and thus contribute evidence to support intersectoral actions to improve nutrition. GDAR is particularly interested in gaining expertise and experience in using historical methods to understand the complex contexts of contemporary public health challenges. We also developed a model for interdisciplinary work and joint research agenda setting through our grant that can inform further work planned within the GDAR network.
Collaborator Contribution As described, this partnership allows us to continue our work prepared through this grant. I am not reporting any funding, as the University of Exeter or co-investigators are not receiving direct funds through this partnership. All funding goes straight to State University of Haiti (and formal agreements are between the two universities). We expect the University of Cambridge to report this through Researchfish to the NIHR. Our GDAR partners have many overlapping interests and contribute additional expertise in natural experimental studies, urban geography and urban planning to our Historical Foodscapes work. (In turn, we contribute social science and history expertise to the GDAR network.) GDAR colleagues will offer training and research supervision to students at the State University of Haiti. This pilot study will be undertaken by Agriculture students at the State University of Haiti.
Impact We do not yet have research outcomes from this study which is currently being conducted in a political volatile setting.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Co-Analysis Stakeholder Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The second Caribbean Foodscapes Co-Analysis workshop was held on July 10, 2019, at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies. The Caribbean Foodscapes research team was joined by international stakeholders from St Lucia, Barbados and Haiti as well as local stakeholders from the fields of spatial planning, health, and history. These stakeholders included representatives of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture and Sports as well as the Pan American Health Organization and the international civil society organisation Healthy Caribbean Coalition that serves all Caribbean Community member states. The workshop fed back initial results of the project, invited critical knowledge exchange and co-analysis of our findings, and involved important planning discussions for impact of our project, e.g. to feed into current white papers on addressing child obesity through limitations to advertisement. URL of project website provided below; also written up by locally here: https://petchary.wordpress.com/2019/07/09/food-health-and-the-city-caribbean-foodscapes-research-project-in-kingston/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://caribbeanfoodscapes.com/events-news/
 
Description Policy round table 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On 8th July 2020, we held a Round Table Discussion on coordinating nutrition-related research in the Caribbean for a harmonized response to post-COVID19 food systems

It was noted that COVID-19, whilst a global health emergency, only served to highlight the long-term nutrition and food insecurity problems in the Caribbean region. The continued need to build capacity for nutrition research in the region was highlighted. Within this context, key discussion points and identified needs included:

To geographically map settings and populations of past and current nutrition research (as well as ongoing interventions that may not be evaluated as opportunities for natural experimental studies/evaluations)
To harmonize nutrition-related data collection tools (e.g. food frequency, dietary diversity (and other measures of diet quality), food security) and data analysis methods and discuss potential for open access of tools
To better share existing internal datasets, build up datasets (e.g. regional database on nutritional composition of available foods (produced locally/imported)) systematically review existing, publicly available data (e.g. FAO stats) - and map available data
To better understand food systems / food sources and their link to nutrition and health outcomes; including assessment of sustainability of food systems, and differential access to nutritious food
To better understand 'demand side', nutrition literacy; improve (coordinated) messaging and messaging platforms to publics and governments; and sustainability of research and/or interventions
To share learning on undertaking research within COVID-19 limitations, understand dynamic context of COVID-19 food systems, food practices
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://caribbeanfoodscapes.com/events-news/
 
Description Stakeholder workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This project development workshop was held at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Regional Headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica. We invited key stakeholders for our project, including representatives from The Pan American Health Organization, The Heart Foundation of Jamaica, Mona Geoinformatics, The Urban Development Corporation, The UWI Museum, and stakeholders providing perspectives from faith-based organisations, the media and gender studies, as well as postgraduate students involved in the project and international academics from health sciences, humanities and social sciences. The investigators presented on their field of research and preliminary work to orient the stakeholders to the project goals and highly interdisciplinary approaches. This included to provide stakeholders with an introduction to the history and current geo-spatial layout and development of Kingston and its food environment. Stakeholders from government, civil society and private sector, in turn, shared insights from local and regional policy and practice to understand their challenges of creating healthy foodscapes, current regeneration plans, and invite their critique to ensure our conceptual thinking is grounded in current policy challenges. The workshop facilitated stakeholders exploring the development and presentation of the Kingston foodscape from their varying disciplinary and professional perspectives through general discussion and sharing as well as through a facilitated interactive exercise using the so-called Q-sort technique. Stakeholders offered expertise and suggestions for sources and questions they hoped the project would address, and contributed to developing a joint research agenda.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.york.ac.uk/history/news/news/2018/caribbean-foodscapes/
 
Description Symposium: Global Food Systems in Local Contexts Understanding Contemporary Food Systems Through Time 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Our virtual symposium brought together researchers from across disciplinary, social and cultural contexts to discuss the importance of temporal perspectives and historical approaches in meeting the contemporary challenge of making food systems healthy and equitable. We were particularly interested in place-based research which investigates the complexity of food systems through time and consider local contexts within the long history of global processes. This was funded by our new GCRF AHRC grant but the idea very much resulted from this grant on histories of foodscapes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://caribbeanfoodscapes.com/symposium/
 
Description Twitter handle 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following recommendations from our stakeholders, we developed a social media presence on Twitter and Instagram to communicate with stakeholders and other interested members of the public or academia. We have also developed a project website, which is in its last stages of development (working url: https://greg-thompson.com/cfs/) and will host one of our main outcomes of the project, an interactive map of Kingston's historical to contemporary foodscape.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL https://twitter.com/foodresearchja
 
Description Urban design panel discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A panel discussion on the role of urban design and planning in social, economic and environmental development of Kingston and Jamaica which was held at the University of the West Indies - Regional Headquarters on October 24th 2018. This event was hosted by the Jamaica Institute of Architects (JIA) in conjunction with their annual Architects' week under the theme 'Remembering the past, informing the future'. The Caribbean Foodscapes team was invited and represented by research assistants, Akil Williams and Mia McMorris. The event consisted of approximately 75 persons with a vibrant mixture of participants including academics, architects, students and a representative from the Urban Development Corporation. A key note presentation by urban planners Natalie Castano Cardenas (Architect) and Juliana Quintero Marin (Public Administration and Local Development Expert) from EAFIT University described the redevelopment of the city, Medellin in Colombia (see link attached) - and panel members drew comparisons to redevelopment efforts in Kingston, Jamaica - the focus of our project. Following the event, the research assistants connected with Natalia Castano Cardenas to share more detailed information about the Caribbean Foodscapes Project and expertise on creating population density maps for cities for the Joining the Threads section of the project. We are planning to include Natalia in our next stakeholder workshop and follow-up grant application.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.syracuse.edu/stories/architectural-lessons-of-medellin/
 
Description blog post on impact of covid on child malnutrition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact blog post describing the possible impact of covid on child malnutrition in Jamaica. Based on my research into twentieth-century child malnutrition, I made a number of recommendations for policy makers to ensure that the pandemic would not increase the prevalence of childhood obesity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://caribbeanfoodscapes.com/blogs/