evidence-based blog of Filippo Dibari

GHSP (2015): Action-Oriented Population Nutrition Research: High Demand but Limited Supply

In Over-nutrition, Under-nutrition on May 28, 2015 at 8:20 am

by Judy Pham, a David Pelletier – on Glob Health: Science Practice – May 27, 2015



Background: The relatively rapid ascendancy of nutrition and health on policy agendas, along with greater emphasis on accountability and results, has stimulated interest in new forms of research to guide the development and implementation of effective policies, programs, and interventions—what we refer to as action-oriented research.

To date, action-oriented research in the nutrition field is thought to be the exception rather than the rule, but empirical evidence to support this claim is lacking.

Methods: We conducted a survey of selected journals in nutrition and public health to assess the extent and nature of population nutrition research published in 2012 that embodied 5 defined characteristics of action-oriented research in relation to: (1) topic(s) of study, (2) processes/influences, (3) actors, (4) methods, and (5) approaches.

We identified 762 articles from the 6 selected nutrition journals and 77 nutrition-related articles from the 4 selected public health journals that met our search criteria.

Results: Only 7% of the 762 papers in nutrition journals had at least 1 of the 5 action-oriented research characteristics, compared with 36% of the 77 nutrition-related papers in the public health journals.

Of all 80 articles that had at least 1 action-oriented research characteristic, only 5 articles (6.25%) embodied all 5 characteristics. Articles with action-oriented research covered a broad range of topics and processes/influences, including policy, workforce development, and schools, as well as actors, such as program staff, store owners, parents, and school staff.

In addition, various research methods were used, such as stakeholder analysis, ethnographic narrative, iterative action research, and decision tree modeling, as well as different approaches, including participant-observer and community-based participatory research.

Conclusions: Action-oriented research represents a small fraction of articles published in nutrition journals, especially compared with public health journals.

This reinforces recent calls to expand population nutrition research agendas to more effectively inform and guide the initiation, development, implementation, and governance of policies, programs, and interventions to address the varied forms of nutrition-related problems. With heightened attention to the magnitude and importance of nutrition problems worldwide, there are substantial reasons and opportunities to incentivize and support such expansion.

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