Programme Lead – Tolullah Oni
This Group serves the following Unit Objectives as a main focus:
- To inform, develop and evaluate population-based approaches to improving health
- To develop new methods, resources and tools for epidemiological and public health research
- To investigate approaches to improving global health, particularly in low and middle income countries
It serves the following Unit Objectives as an element of the programme:
- To build capacity for conducting, understanding and using local, national, and international epidemiology and public health research
- To contribute to the translation of research evidence into policy and practice
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease are a major and growing cause of death and disability. 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 and urbanisation. In fact, although NCDs are often thought of as diseases of affluence, they are more common in low and middle income countries (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.
Given that many of the factors that influence NCD risk lie outside the healthcare sector, preventing this disease burden requires an approach across the whole of society and different sectors of community. This might include education, housing, local government and private enterprise.
The Global Diet and Physical Activity Research Group adopts a transdisciplinary systems approach to co-design and co-produce urban health research for healthy sustainable cities that help to prevent diet and activity-related NCDs.
We are generating evidence on the factors that lead to poor diet and physical inactivity. We are then using this evidence to inform intersectoral policies and the development and evaluation of interventions in built and food environments. The goal is that these can support healthy eating and active living in cities across the globe. Our work involves finding solutions that are affordable and created in partnership with local communities.
The Group includes researchers and staff at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and the The European Centre for Environment & Human Health, University of Exeter.
Current grants and studies
Established in 2017, the Global Diet and Activity Research Network (GDAR) is an international research partnership working to support sustainable development and prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The GDAR Network aims to contribute to decision-making for healthy sustainable societies by:
- Generating evidence for sustainable NCD prevention related to food and physical activity environments in the broader context of urban development, climate emergencies and environmentally vulnerable settings.
- Building the next generation of research leaders skilled in mixed methods approaches to addressing local and global upstream determinants of NCDs.
- Bridging research-policy gaps to health-proof the future of cities by facilitating evidence-informed multisectoral collaboration for NCD prevention, tailored to different geographical and epidemiological contexts.
Through these aims, the Network seeks to inform intersectoral policies for health and the development and evaluation of interventions in built and food environments to support healthy eating and active living.
The ALPhA study explores ways that public space is being informally used for physical activity in Lagos, Nigeria and Yaoundé, Cameroon. Over 3 years, the project aims to understand the types of ALPhA spaces that exist, the experiences of people who use these ALPhA spaces, and air pollution, safety and injury risks they face. The interdisciplinary team members come from across several fields including urban planning, public health, chemistry, engineering and citizen scientists in both cities.
This study is adopting transdisciplinary approach to address the risks of non-communicable disease by focusing on air quality within the urban settings of low and middle income countries (LMICs). The project aims to generate evidence, conceptualise and co-design strategies to address air pollution in the Ugandan cities of Kampala and Jinja, and to replicate these strategies in other urban settings in LMICs.
This project is co-designing and evaluating society led interventions to improve community-based food production in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Its full title is Intervention Co-creation to Improve Community-based Food Production and Household Nutrition in Small Island Developing States, or ICoFaN for short.
- Mayami Abdulla – GDARSpaces Coordinator
- Anna Brugulat Panés – PhD Student
- Tiago Canelas Ferreira – Research Associate
- Louise Foley – Senior Research Associate
- Alice McGushin – Academic Clinical Fellow
- Trish Muzenda – PhD student
- Florence Nabwire – Prince of Wales Fellow in Public Health Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
- Gabriel Okello – Prince of Wales Junior Research Fellow, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership; Honorary Visiting Fellow, MRC Epidemiology Unit
- Tolullah Oni – Clinical Senior Research Associate
- Meelan Thondoo – Research Associate
- Nigel Unwin – Director of Research