There is a real opportunity for the research community and governments to work together to develop robust mechanisms to collect better system-wide data on food that support the design and evaluation of the nutritional impacts of food policy interventions.

The need for action

  • Low and middle income countries are burdened by persistent undernutrition and rapidly growing overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases.
  • Agriculture and food system policies must make a greater contribution to improving nutrition.
  • Existing tools used to measure nutrition links to agriculture and other food policy interventions capture only parts of the food system.
  • Evidence-based policy making requires more rigorous and specific metrics relating to these elements of the food system and their dynamic interactions over time.

Data gaps on diets and food systems

New metrics are needed to measure diet quality and sufficiency, as well as food system efficiency and sustainability.

Progress is needed in six key areas:

  1. Improving the quality and quantity of data on food intake among different sectors of the population.
  2. Reaching agreement on how to measure diet quality.
  3. Developing metrics that measure women’s roles in dietary choices.
  4. Designing metrics to measure the ‘food environment’, including how different food system domains are linked to, and interact with, the food environment in which dietary choices are made.
  5. Devising metrics that measure the healthiness of food systems, all the way from agriculture through markets to people’s actual food consumption.
  6. Developing metrics that measure people’s ability to access food of sufficient quantity and quality.

The importance of filling data gaps

Evidence-based policymaking requires sound evidence. It is difficult for governments to make improvements in areas that are not well understood and hence not well measured.

There are several new initiatives aimed at promoting agreement on data needs and proposing new metrics. Validation of novel ways to assess food systems is still in its infancy, so developing country researchers can play an important role in this process.

Technical Brief no.2

The Technical Brief Improved metrics and data are needed for effective food system policies in the post-2015 era is aimed at analysts, statistical experts and decision makers who use evidence to guide their policy choices. It argues that the research community and governments need to work together to develop robust mechanisms to collect better food system-wide data to help them design and evaluate the nutritional impacts of food policy interventions.

Press release available here

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