Scoping review highlights gaps in addressing unhealthy diets among Ghanaian adolescents
11 December 2023
HPLE Food Systems Framework for Improved Nutrition
A conceptual framework showing key elements of food systems: biophysical and environmental drivers; innovation, technology and infratructure drivers; Source: High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (2017) 


In a comprehensive scoping review titled “Food systems thinking unpacked: a scoping review on industrial diets among adolescents in Ghana”, researchers identified methodological gaps and policy disconnects in addressing adolescent nutrition in Ghana. 25 studies published between 2010 and February 2022 were reviewed and mapped against the HPLE Food Systems Framework for Improved Nutrition, revealing a tendency to address unhealthy diets among adolescents in a siloed manner, and as behavioural and nutritional issues.

The research suggests a quantitative bias in current methodologies and a policy disconnect between national food policies and initiatives targeting adolescents' food environments. To address the complex dynamics of food systems, the study recommends a more interdisciplinary and multi-scalar approach, incorporating mixed methods and participatory practices, coupled with political economy analysis.

Moreover, blind spots in Ghanaian food systems research were identified, particularly concerning the proliferation of unhealthy diets among adolescents. The study underscores the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination between the agri-food sector, health, and education to promote healthy and sustainable diets among adolescents. Ultimately, the research calls for a more holistic understanding of food systems, acknowledging their position within global political economy processes to effectively shape policies and interventions.


Fiorella Picchioni is the PI of an IMMANA grant (round 4). Along with her team, she is working on the project titled: Political Economy Analysis of Food Industry (PEAFI) - unpacking the influence of the food industry on adolescent consumption of ultra-processed foods in Sub-Saharan Africa. The results of this scoping review will form the basis of the PEAFI project. 

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