Modelling the Relationship between the Food System and Health, Development, and the Environment

The aim of this project is to develop the first integrated model of environmental sustainability, health and economic development.

Such a model will allow for in-depth exploration of food production and trade scenarios.

Global food systems are highly complex. They are both influenced by and have an influence on health, economic development and the environment. They will face considerable strain over the coming decades as income growth, urbanisation and globalisation lead to shifts towards Western dietary patterns (e.g. high in meat and processed foods) across the developing world.

Under these conditions, the challenge is to find a sustainable method to feed the world’s increasing population, whilst considering the trade-offs and synergies between health, environmental sustainability and economic development.

An initial goal of the project will be to conduct an audit of data sources that are relevant to this project, which will be used to construct a conceptual framework within which to build the integrated model. An existing model that considers global food trade will be used as the basis of the model, and additional health and environmental components will be developed (in a similar way to how the IMPACT model of food trade can be used to estimate the effect of trade policies on childhood malnutrition). The model will be used to investigate scenarios where incentives at different stages of the food system (e.g. agriculture, trade policies, food prices) can affect the type and distribution of food availability, and the subsequent effects on under and over-nutrition, employment and environmental degradation.

This project is led by Dr Pete Scarborough, at the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, in the Department of Public Health, and is a collaboration with the Environmental Change Institute and the Department of International Development.

Sub-Project: Web-Based PRIME Model