Researchers aim to improve health of children in Ghana


Minister of International Development awards $3.5 million to support project

A team led by Prof. Grace Marquis, of McGill University’s School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, will receive a grant of close to $3.5 million for an innovative project aimed at improving the health and household food security of infants and children in southeastern Ghana’s Upper Manya Krobo district. The funding was announced today by Senator Larry Smith, on behalf of the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, at an event held at McGill’s Macdonald Campus, in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. 

The implementation of the project, which integrates capacity building of rural staff and health and agricultural interventions, will be led by Prof. Esi Colecraft at the University of Ghana, in collaboration with Heifer International Ghana and World Vision Ghana. Ghana’s Upper Manya Krobo district, which has a population of about 75,000, is both isolated and poorly serviced; most roads are unpaved and access is hindered especially during the two rainy seasons. 

The project, which involves a five-year study of 3,000 households in the area, is designed to foster collaboration among workers in the diverse sectors (health, agriculture, education, finance) in the region in order to develop district-level capacity in nutrition and to examine intervention packages where integrated activities (for example, agricultural and health) are combined to promote food security and health. Using Heifer International’s pass on the gift approach, the project will both help families improve their diet through the addition of animal-based foods, expand the diversity of foods grown, and gain income through the sale of eggs. Families, in turn, will pass on chickens to the next group of families to receive the intervention. 

"Canada is working with the Ghanaians to help diversify their economy and improve health services and nutrition, particularly for women and girls," said Senator Smith. "We are proud to partner with strong academic institutions, like McGill University and the University of Ghana, to give those most in need the basic tools to escape poverty and lead healthy, productive lives."

According to Prof. Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES), “this project builds on the solid national and international reputation, and funding successes of the FAES, as a leader in research, teaching and outreach in global food security.”

The researchers believe that this project will provide evidence to encourage integrated approaches in policy and program planning for development throughout rural Africa. The team of McGill researchers also includes Prof. Frances Aboud, Dept. of Psychology; Prof. Shelley Clark, Canada Research Chair in Youth, Gender and Global Health, Dept. of Sociology; and Prof. Theresa Gyorkos, Dept. of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health.

"This project provides an exciting opportunity for us to implement the research lessons learned over the last decade in rural Ghana," said Prof. Marquis. "It will allow us to demonstrate the benefits gained by integrating nutrition into all areas of rural development (including health, agriculture, education, and finance) and providing coherent messages along with the necessary skills and tools to implement them. The wonderful enthusiasm and dedication of our Ghanaian partners since the beginning are key to the project’s success. We expect to change practices and improve the nutrition and status of women, infants, and children in these poor, rural communities.”

“We thank the Government of Canada for this generous grant, which recognizes McGill’s strong tradition of successfully mobilizing research results for the benefit of the global community,” said Dr. Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “Through improved food and nutrition interventions, this funding will make an enormous impact on the health outcomes and lives of children and women in rural Ghana, now and in the future.” 

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