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A Combined Food Systems Approach to Scaling-up Interventions to Address the Double Burden of Malnutrition

Copyright: Lisovskaya/iStock/Thinkstock
ESRC website
Medical Research Council website

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 22 February 2019 - 7 May 2019

Summary

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Collective Programme, is pleased to announce investment of up to £8.5 million to support interdisciplinary proposals that seek to work across the food system to reduce the global double burden of malnutrition.

This programme aims to consolidate existing evidence and synthesise new evidence for sustainable, multidisciplinary approaches that address the challenge of chronic global malnutrition. This will encompass both under-nutrition (too few calories) and over-nutrition (too many calories), both of which are associated with inadequate micronutrient intakes, otherwise known as the ‘Double Burden of Malnutrition’.

The primary aim of this opportunity is to invite applications for new, innovative research that builds upon and scales up existing investments or strategies in Food Systems that have shown to have potential benefit/promise, to maximise the potential for impact in addressing the double burden of malnutrition.

Proposals must be led by UK researchers normally eligible for UKRI funding, and partnerships with eligible Co-Investigators based in any of the DAC countries (see downloads section) are required.

The call is funded from the UK government’s GCRF. As well as being scientifically excellent, research supported under it must meet the criteria for classification of expenditure as ODA.

Funds can be requested for up to three years and projects must start by mid-February 2020.

Webinar

Two recordings of the UKRI-BBSRC webinars, describing the scope of the call in more detail and providing more information on GCRF, are available to view below. UKRI-BBSRC will also add an FAQ factsheet compiling common queries regarding the call.

Background

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a 5-year £1.5 billion fund and a key component in the delivery of the UK Aid Strategy (see: GOV.UK: UK aid: tackling global challenges in the national interest). The fund aims to ensure that UK research takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries through:

  • challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research
  • strengthening capacity for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries
  • providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need.

The Collective Programme under the UKRI GCRF Collective Fund is a series of calls designed to enhance the coherence, strategic focus and overall impact across the six strategic GCRF Challenge portfolios:

  • Cities and Sustainable Infrastructure
  • Education
  • Food Systems
  • Global Health
  • Resilience to Environmental Shocks and Change
  • Security Protracted Conflict, Refugee Crises and Forced Displacement.

After Global Health, the Food Systems portfolio represents the largest investment by GCRF in any individual portfolio. This call is designed to complement other recent GCRF investments. However, the Food Systems projects funded to date have concentrated primarily on food production, with few considering their translation into nutrition and health outcomes. Recent GCRF initiatives have gone some way to addressing this gap. There is nevertheless scope to build on these investments with an emphasis on combining complimentary approaches across the food system to achieve improvements in nutrition and health outcomes at scale. This current call aims to support research that employs a systems approach to address the challenges of the double burden of malnutrition. The call is being delivered by UKRI and steered by the GCRF Challenge Leaders (see: UK Research and Innovation: Global Challenges Research Fund, challenge leaders). For administrative purposes, UKRI-BBSRC is managing this call, in collaboration with UKRI-ESRC and UKRI-MRC. Interdisciplinary research excellence is central to the GCRF and investigators from all disciplines are encouraged to apply for calls within the parameters of each call.

Purpose and aims

Addressing the double burden of malnutrition is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). According to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition 2016 Foresight Report ‘Food Systems and Diets: Facing the challenges of the 21st century (ref 1), malnutrition in all its forms affects one in three people worldwide, and the prevalence rates of overweight, obesity, and diet-related chronic diseases are increasing in every region, but most rapidly in developing countries. This is a major impediment to achieving the 2030 SDGs. The report also states that the estimated impact on the global economy could be as high as US$3.5 trillion per year, or US$500 per individual.

Although some progress has been made in recent years, the double burden of malnutrition remains high and continues to be a worldwide problem. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report (ref 2), jointly prepared by the several United Nations Agencies and the World Health Organization (WHO) states that “after a prolonged decline, world hunger appears to be on the rise again. The estimated number of undernourished people increased to 815 million in 2016, up from 777 million in 2015.” This report also indicates some small improvements in childhood nutrition from 2016 to 2017:

  • Stunting - 151 million children (22.2%) [155 million in 2016]
  • Wasting - 51 million children (7.5%) [52 million in 2016]
  • Overweight - 38 million children (5.6%) [41 million in 2016]

However, a rise in food insecurity, due in part to the greater number of regional conflicts and global economic slowdown, has had a negative impact which may become increasingly evident in terms of a weakening and perhaps a reversal of the recently observed reduction of childhood stunting and wasting rates in the next few years.

This programme seeks to bridge and enhance the impact of various, often disparate, research activities across the food system that seek to reduce the global double burden of malnutrition. It seeks to support research activity that employs a systems approach to address the complex challenge of the double burden of malnutrition, relating specifically to SDG2, (zero hunger), SDG3 (good health and wellbeing) and SDG12 (responsible consumption and production).

There has been considerable investment in research aimed at finding solutions to malnutrition and its consequences, including stunting, cognitive impairment, obesity, and diabetes. The negative effects of these consequences go beyond health and wellbeing, with impacts on socio-economic status, productivity of communities and subsequently economic growth and poverty reduction, not to mention the increased burden on health systems. However, further resources are required to realise the full potential of this investment through combining and scaling-up successful interventions with effective engagement of the various actors required to deliver sustainable improvements at the population level. Given the emerging recognition of the various interlinkages between agriculture, food security, and nutrition as part of an overall food system, it is especially timely to encourage the bringing together of different interventions across this system. These include nutrition-specific approaches that address the immediate causes of undernutrition (such as inadequate dietary intake), and nutrition-sensitive approaches that can address some of the underlying and basic causes of malnutrition by incorporating nutrition goals and actions from the agriculture sector, such as the diversification of crops and livestock production to enhance nutrition and health related outcomes.

This programme aims to consolidate existing evidence and synthesise new evidence for sustainable, multidisciplinary approaches that address the challenge of chronic global malnutrition. This will encompass both under-nutrition (too few calories) and over-nutrition (too many calories), both of which are associated with inadequate micronutrient intakes, including iron, zinc and vitamin A, otherwise known as the ‘Double Burden of Malnutrition (ref 3)’. This double burden of malnutrition is characterised by the coexistence of undernutrition alongside overweight and obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases within individuals, households, and populations, and across the life course.

Scope

UKRI has already invested in a broad range of projects through GCRF that have the potential to improve the safety and quality of diets and access to nutritious foods in LMICs. The primary aim of this opportunity is to invite applications for new, innovative work that builds on strategies that have shown to have some benefit/promise on a small scale (or in a different geographical location). This could include bringing together new actors to maximise this potential, or brings together multiple strategies that have potential synergy and thus enhance impact.

Through this new funding opportunity, UKRI wishes to support new research that builds on previous investments through:

  1. scaling up of research interventions to extend and consolidate evidence on the effectiveness of interventions that have already demonstrated positive but small-scale benefit/promise with potential for impact;
  2. encouraging interdisciplinary collaborations that combine complementary approaches, such as
    • fortification (the addition of micronutrients to foods during processing) and nutrient supplementation
    • agronomic techniques (the addition of fertilisers to enhance nutrient density)
    • biofortification (the breeding and selection of crops with traits that enhance their micronutrient contents)
    • the study of livelihoods and socio-economic influences on whether interventions will work.
  3. advocacy activities with key stakeholders, such as generating reports and publicising research findings for a non-academic audience, round table discussions with policy makers, and interactions with international networks such as the Scaling Up Nutrition or SUN network, and
  4. funding new research that links the existing portfolio to overlapping concerns of the other GCRF portfolios of Education and Health (ref 4).

Eligible projects must reflect elements of all three of the following:

  • New research to enhance coherence and impact, including new combinations of approaches to tackle malnutrition along the food system chain from production to consumer, and evidence of strong partnerships through co-creation of research with partners in LMICs and stakeholder involvement in design
  • Communication, including layperson- as well as policymaker-targeted publications in the form of reports, memos, and blogs, webinars, films, exhibitions, and workshops
  • Stakeholder/end user engagement, including conferences, round-table discussions, high level meetings with government departments, policymakers, the private sector, and members of civil society.

We expect partnerships between academics and relevant stakeholders/users, for example NGOs, farmers, policymakers and practitioners in both the Global North and South, allowing for the co-creation of integrated and crosscutting activities, and the equitable sharing of responsibilities (see Guidance to Applicants for more details of eligibility). They will be a source of robust evidence that informs debate and feeds into policy and practice. Collaboration with stakeholders will be key in order to co-create evidence and outputs that meet users’ needs, such as briefing papers, thematic reports, ‘rapid response’ evidence, informational events and data visualisation

The following research areas are outside the scope of the call:

  • Primary food production relating to increasing productivity
  • Where the research is focused on over-nutrition (i.e. obesity) without the presence of micronutrient deficiencies
  • Communicable diseases, including foodborne and zoonotic disease, for example influenza, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis
  • Food safety
  • Continuation of existing research grants
  • Establishment or continuation of cohorts
  • Research directed at non-communicable diseases that does not incorporate food systems approaches.

This proposal also complements recent research calls from UKRI:

  • Food & nutrition research for health in the developing world: bioavailability & nutrient content
  • Agri-systems research to enhance livelihoods in developing countries
  • Third call for research to improve adolescent health in LMIC settings
  • UK-Peru: Relationship between Food, Nutrition and Health
  • Cultures, behaviours and histories of agriculture, food and nutrition
  • Understanding the mechanistic links between nutrition and non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries (see external links)

Official Development Assistance

All research funded through this call will form part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance, as defined by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Guidance on the definition and its interpretation is provided in the ‘OECD: What is ODA? (PDF)’ fact sheet and UK Research and Innovation: Official Development Assistance Global Challenges Research Fund Guidance (PDF).

The ODA relevance of the planned research should be clearly evident throughout the proposal. Additional information on this can be found in the guidance notes (see application downloads below). Please note: owing to the small number of proposals that will be supported through the call we strongly encourage applicants to consider the ODA relevance of their research, in particular the strength of developing country partnerships and how the project will work to alleviate poverty and promote welfare. Proposals which are not considered to be ODA compliant will be rejected without peer review.

Project scale and duration

Up to £8.5 million is available, subject to the quality of proposals received. Total requested from UKRI should not exceed around £1 million (see eligible costs section in the guidance notes).

Information about the funding that may be requested is provided in the guidance notes, along with instructions on how costs should be entered in the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. It is essential that applicants refer to the guidance notes to ensure that the correct documentation and information is submitted.

Funds can be requested for up to three years. Projects must start by mid-February 2020.

Exclusions

Applications will be rejected before peer review for proposals which:

  • are outside the scope of the call
  • are not considered to be ODA compliant
  • request funding for ineligible individuals, organisations or costs (for example studentships/equipment - see the guidance notes)
  • have not entered their costs correctly as per the guidance notes

Eligibility

The call is open to individuals and organisations normally eligible to apply to the UK research councils for research grants, for details see: UK Research and Innovation: Eligibility for funding.

Applications must be led by an eligible PI in the UK.

As well as UK researchers normally eligible for UKRI funding, applications may include eligible Co-Investigators based in any of the DAC countries listed in the downloads section. Full details of eligibility for this call are provided in the guidance notes. It is strongly recommended that there should be an integrated partnership of UK academics with researchers from DAC listed countries that is integral to the application.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

Applications must be submitted via the Je-S system by 7 May 2019, 16:00 BST.

A single application should be submitted by the research organisation of the UK PI on behalf of all participating organisations.

All applicants named on the Je-S form must be registered as users of the system well before the application is submitted. Please note that the Je-S registration process for overseas Co-Investigators could take up to three weeks and thus applicants are advised to register as early as possible. Guidance on how to create an account is in the Je-S Helpdesk. Applications cannot be processed if this has not been done.

Full details of the submission process and documentation required are provided in the guidance notes. It is essential that applicants refer to the guidance notes to ensure that the correct documentation and information is submitted.

Application downloads (for reference only)

Webinar recordings

The recordings of the webinars can be found below:

GCRF Double Burden of Malnutrition Scope Webinar

 

GCRF information and relevance guidance

Timetable

Call opens 25 February 2019
Webinar March 2019
Application deadline 7 May 2019, 16:00 BST
Funding decisions October 2019
Projects to start mid-February 2020

References

  1. Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition: Food systems and diets: Facing the challenges of the 21st century (PDF)

    You may need to download additional plug-ins to open this file.

  2. FAO: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (PDF)

    You may need to download additional plug-ins to open this file.

  3. World Health Organization: Double burden of malnutrition
  4. UK Research and Innovation: Global Challenges Research Fund, funded projects

Related calls: partnerships nutrition multidisciplinary GCRF food crops collaboration agriculture