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Health, Economics, Livelihoods, and Society

This thematic area aims to:

  • Assess and address tradeoffs and synergies of food production and diets with livelihoods, economics, health, and social systems.
  • Characterize the gender dynamics around production, preparation, and consumption of nutrient-rich foods.
  • Evaluate nutrition and health impacts of altering factors affecting the production and consumption of nutrient-rich foods.

The 20th century witnessed tremendous improvements in agricultural productivity and growth in the variety of foods available to consumers over space as well as across growing seasons. But challenges remain. In wealthy nations, the incidence of health problems like obesity and diabetes have grown as the price per calorie has fallen. In developing countries, a large share of poor households are located in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, suggesting that commercial value chains will have to become more inclusive and agricultural productivity will have to improve to lift households out of poverty. In a seeming contradiction, poverty and undernutrition have persisted while health problems associated with overnutrition have grown with rising incomes in urban areas of the developing world.

The goals of the HELS Area of Inquiry are twofold. The first goal will be to study the tradeoffs and synergies between developing food systems and human welfare, where the latter might include the growth and distribution of income, health, and impacts on women as well as marginalized groups. The second goal will be to study the effects of interventions meant to develop food systems in a way that is broadly inclusive and improve multiple dimensions of welfare, e.g., incomes as well as health.

Several research topics consistent with HELS are listed below. These are only meant to be examples, as HELS is a broad area of inquiry.

  • What are the implications for human health and economic welfare of an involving food retail sector in the United States, e.g., the rapid growth of dollar stores?
  • Can growing agricultural incomes and productivity and behavioral change for improved welfare be made complementary? Examples might include adoption of productivity enhancing and environmentally responsible production techniques, or programs that increase rural incomes in developing countries while promoting behavioral change for improved nutrition.
  • Can market functionality be improved such that the benefits are broadly distributed? Examples include: increasing access to formal finance in developing countries, such as through the use of digital credit in Africa, with consideration for over-indebtedness; and developing innovations in food and agriculture such that benefits of adoption are not primarily captured by the affluent.
  • What are the implications of a shrinking resource base and an increasing volatile climate for conflict? A leading example would be rising conflict in the Sahel driven in part by conflict between farmers and pastoralists competing over land and water.

Recent Publications:

  • Havelaar, A. H., Sapp, A. C., Amaya, M. P., Nane, G. F., Morgan, K. M., Devleesschauwer, B., Grace, D., Knight-Jones, T., & Kowalcyk, B. B. (2022). Burden of foodborne disease due to bacterial hazards associated with beef, dairy, poultry meat, and vegetables in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, 2017. Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 6:1024560. doi:10.3389/fsufs.2022.1024560
  • Sapp, A. C., Amaya, M. P., Havelaar, H. H., & Nane, G. F. (2022). Attribution of country level foodborne disease to food group and food types in three African countries: Conclusions from a structured expert judgment study. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 16(9):e0010663. 
  • Blare, T., & Donovan, J. (2022). Challenges to “going local”: Lessons from direct food sourcing initiatives in Cusco, Peru. Tourism and Hospitality Research 0(0) 1–14. DOI: 10.1177/14673584221074923
  • Chen, X., Kassas, B., & Gao, Z. (2021). Impulsive purchasing in grocery shopping: Do the shopping companions matter? Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 60(2021), 102495. 
  • Huseynov, S., Kassas, B., Segovia, M. S. & Palma, M. A. (2019). Incorporating biometric data in models of consumer choice. Applied Economics, 51(14), 1514-1531. 
  • Kassas, B., & Nayga Jr., R. M. (2021). Understanding the importance and timing of panic buying among U.S. households during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food Quality and Preference, 93(2021), 104240.

GFSI Leads for the Health, Economics, Livelihoods, and Society thematic area are Susan Percival and Trent Blare