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£3.5m Award to Explore Nexus Between Agriculture and Health

Pioneering researchers coordinated by LIDC have won approximately £3.5m to address the global food security crisis by investigating the neglected links between agriculture and health. Their programme, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, bridges traditional disciplines and aims to create a new holistic paradigm for understanding the relationship between agricultural production and population health.

Hunger and poor health
It is a timely initiative considering the world’s unprecedented nutrition and health needs. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the economic crisis and high food prices have increased the number of hungry people globally to a “historic high” of more than a billion, almost all living in developing countries.  But food shortages are also only part of the problem. In many emerging economies, energy-dense and nutrient- poor foods based on cheap cereals and fats are now contributiong to an epidemic of chronic health problems, including obesity and diabetes. Additional interactions between agriculture and health include the growing risk of animals transmitting diseases to humans because of increasing livestock production and trade, and the effect of widespread diseases like HIV/AIDS on agricultural productivity.

Research themes
The five-year research programme, which involves anthropologists, economists, agricultural researchers, public health professionals, and nutritionists will explore a range of themes with agricultural and health components, including:

•    Poverty and development
•   The globalisation of diets and the need to improve food quality
•   Climate change, health and agriculture
•   Agriculture, health and emerging diseases

The interdisciplinary venture has been forged by LIDC – a collaborative project  which addresses complex problems in international development by bringing together social and natural scientists from across the University of London’s six Bloomsbury Colleges. Academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Royal Veterinary College (RVC), and The School of Pharmacy, will participate in the research. The initiative provides for professorial and lectureship positions, as well as postdoctoral researchers and PhD students.  All research projects will be designed as joint activities between health and agricultural researchers. The programme  will also organise international meetings and exchanges to help develop this new area. Entitled ‘Building an Agri-Health Discipline to Link Agricultural and Health Research’, the programme  is one of only two awards given  this summer  under the Embedding of Emerging Disciplines initiative of The Leverhulme Trust , which funds research and education.

Professor Jeff Waage, Director of LIDC and principal investigator  for the Agri-Health programme,  said: “We see in global patterns of malnutrition today, including under- and over-nutrition, a fundamental mismatch between strategies and policies for food production and population health. This mismatch is due in part to decades of separation of agricultural and health research. This programme will challenge this siloed approach by linking researchers across sectors and disciplines to develop the new tools we need to design and produce a healthy diet for nine billion people.  The Agri-Health programme exemplifies LIDC’s commitment to encouraging  international development research and training that crosses  traditional boundaries to deliver better outcomes.”

Notes to editors
•    For more information and to interview Professor Jeff Waage, Director of LIDC, email jeff.waage@lidc.bloomsbury.ac.ukor phone +44 (0) 20 7958 8252.
•    LIDC was established in 2007 with start-up funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to undertake original interdisciplinary research and training to tackle complex problems in international development. It aims to:         
•    Develop high quality interdisciplinary research between its six Colleges and other partners
•    Develop new and innovative teaching programmes to support development goals
•    Inform national and international policies on development through linking research, policy and practice
•    Build capacity in low- and middle-income countries to address the needs of higher education and research institutions, NGOs and governments
•    For further information about LIDC, its activities and events, visit www.lidc.org.uk or contact Guy Collender, LIDC’s Senior Communications Officer, by email guy.collender@lidc.bloomsbury.ac.uk or phone +44 (0) 20 7958 8260.
•    The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 under the Will of the first Lord Leverhulme. It is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing funds of some £50 million every year. For further information about the schemes that The Leverhulme Trust fund visit www.leverhulme.ac.uk