The goal of the Global Diet and Activity Research Group and Network (GDAR) is to help prevent noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancers, in low and middle income countries (LMICs). These diseases are a major and growing cause of death and disability in these countries. Two of the most important causes of this trend are unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity, both of which are associated with rapid economic development.
The GDAR group and network will generate evidence on the factors that lead to poor diet and physical inactivity, design and evaluate interventions to change these factors (also known as determinants), and use mathematical modelling to investigate the long-term health and economic effects of such interventions.
Although NCDs are often thought of as diseases of affluence, they are more common in LMICs than in high income countries. In LMICs most people with NCDs are of working age. Death or disability caused by an NCD can leave a family destitute, particularly those in the poorer sections of society who are increasingly exposed to the risks causing NCDs and who often find it difficult to afford and access healthcare. NCDs are, therefore, limiting the ability of LMICs to develop socially and economically. In response to this, the United Nations developed Sustainable Development Goals that commit countries to reducing mortality from NCDs in adults aged 30 to 70 years by one third by 2030.
Our work will contribute towards meeting this important target. It will involve finding solutions that are affordable and created in partnership with local communities. GDAR will build on the expertise of the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) and the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, and that of research partners in Kenya, Cameroon, South Africa and the Caribbean to form a research Network. Later we hope to expand the Network to include partners in Brazil, Peru, India and Fiji.
Partners in the GDAR network
At the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) we are collaborating with:
- Prof Shane Norris, Unit Director, Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (DPHRU), on the development and evaluation of interventions to improve NCD risk in adolescents, and on a pilot evaluation of a lifestyle intervention in teenage girls in Agincourt, South Africa.
- Dr Lisa Micklesfield, Senior Researcher, Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (DPHRU)
- Prof Hofmann, Director of PRICELESS SA (Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening South Africa), on a potential comparative evaluation of sugar sweetened beverage taxes in South Africa and the Caribbean.
At the University of Cape Town (UCT), our collaboration is with the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, through Associate Professor Tolullah Oni. Dr Oni leads the Research Initiative for Cities and Health (RICHE), with the goal of developing policy relevant research on urban health and equity. We have discussed potential work focusing on the determinants of diet and physical activity in informal urban settlements.
At the University of Yaounde, we have a longstanding collaboration with the Health of Populations in Transition Research Group, through its Director, Prof Jean Claude Mbanya. This has included providing PhD and post doc training to a clinical fellow, Dr Felix Assah, who is undertaking a population-based study of the links between objectively measured physical activity, metabolic disease risk and rural and urban living in Cameroon.
The collaboration with the Centre for Global Health Research at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute through Prof Charles Obonyo, Chief Research Officer, is on the establishment of a new national survey of NCDs. Investigating the determinants of objectively measured physical activity will form part of this collaboration.
Collaboration with the Caribbean Institute for Health Research, University of the West Indies, was developed partly through Dr Nigel Unwin’s 5 year employment there until March 2016. Work has included the objective measurement of physical activity and sodium excretion in a national survey in Barbados, and evaluation of the impact of a region-wide political initiative (the 2007 Port of Spain Declaration) to improve the prevention and control of NCDs.
Find out more
- Read more about the NIHR Global Health Research initiative at nihr.ac.uk/globalhealth
- Read the National Press Release Government awards over £120 million for global health research
- If you would like to know more about GDAR, please contact Dr Nigel Unwin: www.mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk/people/nigel-unwin