NOVA: Developing a tool to measure consumption of ultra-processed foods in the Pacific Islands | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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NOVA: Developing a tool to measure consumption of ultra-processed foods in the Pacific Islands

Project background:

Food systems in the Pacific Islands have changed dramatically over the past 50 or so years. Diets that were primarily based on local, traditional staple foods, are now becoming more reliant on imported, highly processed foods.

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are ‘multi-ingredient, industrially formulated mixtures. UPFs are formulated mixtures highly processed to the extent that they are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal sources. Most are manufactured to be ready to eat or ready to heat, requiring no preparation before quick, easy consumption’’ (FAO/Popkin, 2020). These UPFs have been directly linked to overweight, obesity and many diet-related non-communicable diseases (FAO/Popkin, 2020).

While we know that across the Pacific Islands the availability of these UPF’s is increasing, there is limited data on actual consumption. In this project you will be part of a research team developing a tool that can be used to measure UPF consumption in the Pacific Islands.

This study is already underway. The SRS student will be contributing to the development of the tool.

There is flexibility in the days/times that the student can work, and this will be negotiated at the start of the ACPIR SRS.

Background information that may be useful for students considering this project:

The tool that we are developing is based on the work of Costa CS, Faria FR, Gabe KT, Sattamini IF, Khandpur N, Leite FHM, et al. Nova score for the consumption of ultra-processed foods: description and performance evaluation in Brazil. Rev Saude Publica. 2021;55:13.

Primary supervisor: Dr Sarah Burkhart

Dr Burkhart is a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at USC and a member of the ACPIR Leadership team. Sarah’s research uses a food systems lens to explore food security and food choice in the Pacific Islands. Working with Pacific partners, academics and stakeholders, Sarah is interested in nutrition education and food provision in Pacific Island school settings and understanding determinants of food security across Pacific Island food systems, with a focus on food environments and food choice.

HDR student mentor: Ms Bridget Horsey

Ms Horsey is a PhD Candidate and has a Bachelor of Nutrition (Honours). Bridget’s PhD focuses on developing a food literacy framework for the Pacific Islands region. Bridget has been working on this project and has experience in undertaking dietary assessment in Pacific Island settings.

External collaborators: Project team.

For more information please contact Dr Sarah Burkhart

Students will be asked to assist on this project in several ways, with tasks such as:

  • Assisting with the development of the tool to assess consumption of in the Pacific Islands region
  • Consulting with stakeholders
  • Developing a manuscript for publication

Deliverables will include

  • Contribution to the tool development
  • Contribution to a draft of a manuscript outlining the process of tool development
  • A final presentation of the work undertaken

This project would suit a student with background understanding of, and an interest in food systems, nutrition/health, food production, dietary intake and policy.

In addition to the general ACPIR-SRS eligibility criteria, undergraduate students need to have successfully completed at least the requirements of first year for the Bachelor of Nutrition program or the Bachelor of Dietetics program for this project.

In addition to the general ACPIR-SRS selection criteria, personal attributes of collegiality, integrity, teamwork and reliability, attention to detail, critical thinking and initiative are required for this project.

Applicants are required to submit a resume and a brief statement outlining their interest in the project and how this fits with their career/research aspirations. Please note that applicants may be invited to take part in an interview as part of the selection process.