UTech, JA. Receives $14.6M NHF Funding to Conduct First National Food Consumption Study

The College of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech, Ja.) has received grant funding of $14.6 M from The National Health Fund to conduct the First National Food Consumption Study. The grant was formally presented at a special ceremony held on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at the Technology Innovation Centre, UTech, Jamaica Papine campus.

Dr. Ellen Campbell-Grizzle, Dean, College of Health Sciences in her welcome, told the gathering that the multi-disciplinary research will take on many faces and will involve all disciplines in the College with the engagement of members of faculty, staff and students. She thanked the National Health Fund for the confidence placed in UTech, Jamaica to take on such a profound role in research that will be fundamental in solving some of the issues that are affecting the health of Jamaicans. The Dean pointed out that the results of the research will also be used to strengthen UTech, Jamaica's Wellness Centre to incubate solutions that can improve Jamaican's nutritional status. The findings will further inform the establishment of one urban and one rural wellness centre using the UTech, Jamaica Wellness Model.

Mr. Everton Anderson, CEO of the National Health Fund in his address, congratulated the College of Health Sciences on their proposal to conduct the survey, noting that the Fund supports research that can be used to develop comprehensive, integrated and effective interventions in health care in Jamaica. Noting that health promotion is a major thrust of the NHF, Mr. Anderson added that "in the planning of health promotion programmes and campaigns, the use of research is critical."


Mrs. Ava Simpson, Programme Director, Dietetics & Nutrition, College of Health Sciences, provided an overview of the research. She explained that it was being done in the context of the need for Jamaica to develop evidence-based knowledge about the food consumption patterns of the population and factors that drive these eating patterns. She noted that the goal of the research is "to positively impact Jamaica's response to the burgeoning obesity problem through research of the food consumption patterns of the adult population and the derivation evidence based on wellness solutions." She pointed to the need for dietitians, nutritionists, the Ministry of Health and other government agencies to understand what Jamaicans are eating, why they are making these food choices and how this links to their nutritional practice and clinical picture.

The research will target Jamaicans between the ages of 18 and 60 and aims to provide estimates of both acute and usual consumption patterns of the Jamaican population at the individual level. UTech, Jamaica researchers will use tools such as the food frequency questionnaire to assess the long-term nutritional exposure of each individual in the study and a 24- hour recall which collects dietary information on current intake. Blood or urine samples will be collected and examined to determine the nutrient status for the selected sub groups.

The data will be evaluated by the Food Classification System which will allow for the food consumption data to be comparable at the food level. The Caribbean Food Grouping System will be used as a minimum level of comparability. Researchers will also include in this method of evaluation, the use of household and other relevant measurements to enable the conversion of foods as consumed to determine nutrient level.

Public Education

The results coming out of this landmark national research will enable UTech, Jamaica to influence and inform health and wellness programmes by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and the food manufacturing industry.

In support of the College's public education thrust facilitated through its active Research Translation Unit, efforts will be made to publish information from the study on healthy eating and wellness on relevant websites, social media, in brochures and other appropriate forms of printed material to assist Jamaicans in making healthier food choices. Dr. Campbell-Grizzle emphasized that the College "strongly believes in ensuring that the public understands what we are doing, which is the object of education – to share knowledge in a way that is understandable to influence behavior and consumer change.

The National Food Consumption Study will be conducted over the next two years.