More than one-third of low- and middle-income countries face several forms of malnutrition. West Africa, like most low- and middle-income countries, faces the triple burden of malnutrition. Indeed, undernourishment and micronutrient deficiencies remain prevalent especially among young children and women of reproductive age. In addition to these specific deficiencies, which remain public health concerns, diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are emerging as a result of progressive urbanisation, lifestyle changes, sedentary lifestyles, and unhealthy eating habits. Today, one third of the urban population in West Africa is overweight. NCDs including hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancers are on the rise in the region. Despite widespread international recognition of the triple burden of malnutrition as a major public health problem, slow and insufficient action by governments to improve the profoundly changing food environments continues to foster the coexistence of all these forms of malnutrition and related NCDs. Therefore, the challenge for the West African region is to generate scientific evidence to better understand food policies and systems and their impact on healthy food environments.
This project focuses on action research on healthy public policies for healthy environments through a West African Food Policy and Systems Research Network. Using the Food-EPI Tool developed by INFORMAS, this project will carry out an evaluation of the efforts and actions carried out in the area of public nutrition by the governments of five French-speaking West African countries. This in order to prevent malnutrition in all its forms through public policies and supporting infrastructures. The project will also gather evidence on the exposure of children and the Senegalese population to unhealthy advertising, to strengthen and inform the regulatory framework to restrict such exposure. The multidisciplinary and multisectoral nature of this project, in addition to targeting the creation of healthy food environments and capacity building of researchers, will produce in a participatory and inclusive manner an agenda for priority actions in West Africa that will serve as a tool for political decision making and the development of strategic plans in nutrition and health.