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Action-Research on Adolescent and Young Women Nutrition

Adolescent and young women are often undernourished and overlooked and few, if any, efforts are made to educate this population about best food habits. This presents current and future risks: undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies impair their growth at the critical phase of puberty and menarche, increases the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and carries an elevated risk of non-communicable diseases in future life. However, this period is also viewed as a window of opportunity for nutrition action as it is when growing girls begin to assume adult roles and establish dietary patterns that often carry through adulthood and to their future families. While there has been progress in recognizing the nutrition plight of adolescent girls and young women in recent years, knowledge of their dietary patterns, nutrient deficiencies, or food choice motivations remains fragmentary, hampering the elaboration of effective strategies to improve their nutrition.

Funded by La Fonation Botnar, the Academy and partners carried out an Action-Research program over three years (2020-2022) in Colombia and Vietnam to document the diets of adolescent and young women (14-22 years old); identify nutrient deficits in their diets; elaborate recommendations to improve their nutritional status using locally available and affordable foods; and engage with them in incorporating those recommendations in their diets through a Social Innovation Challenge. Awards and resources were transferred to the most promising solutions to enable their implementation. Pre/post measurements of the interventions’ impact showed significant improvement in the diets of participants. Using local foods as a point of departure proved successful in creating interest and in concretely anchoring choices that significantly and positively affected their food intake. Social media proved to be a playful and powerful means of mobilization when designed and controlled by participants. Building on concerns of importance to this population—self-image, self-esteem, peer status—was also a strong lever for behavioral change. This initiative may serve as a model for future interventions targeting this population group. In addition, it created an extensive scientific output to advance our knowledge of the problem and how it may be addressed.

Implementing Partners

World Vision/Colombia

International Center for Education and Development (CINDE). Colombia

School of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Antioquia, Medellin Colombia

Thai Nguyen University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Vietnam

National Institute of Nutrition, Vietnam

The World Food Programme, Rome

Funding Support

La Fondation Botnar

Activities

Activities undertaken by this Action-Research program in nutrition are summarized below:

Resources

Scientific publications from the Adolescent and Young Women Nutrition Action-Research

The entire Action-Research process is described at length in nine peer-reviewed publications published in a Special Issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

List of papers (hyperlinks to come once published in Open Access on Annals of NYAS)

  • Mobilizing adolescents and young women to promote healthy diets in urban settings of Colombia and Vietnam: lessons from two action-research programs. Bergeron G, Nguyen P, Restrepo-Mesa S, Correa-Guzman N, Nga L. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023
  • Food and nutrient intake of adolescent women in the city of Medellin, Colombia Restrepo-Mesa S, Correa Guzmán N, et al. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023
  • Dietary intake and occupational status among female youths of Thai Nguyen, Vietnam Mai Tran L, Nguyen P. et al. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023
  • Exploring the potential of meeting adolescent girls’ nutrient needs in urban Colombia using food-based recommendations. Knight F, Kuri S., et al The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023
  • Locally relevant food-based recommendations could increase iron and calcium intake for adolescent girls in Vietnam. Gie S., Nguyen P. et al. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023
  • Validation of the NOVA screener for the consumption of ultra-processed foods in young women of Medellin, Colombia. Correa-Madrid MC, Correa-Guzmán N, et al. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023
  • Beliefs and practices of healthy eating in a group of young women in Medellin, Colombia. Balancing between the desired and the possible. Arboleda-Montoya LM, Rodríguez-Villamil N. et al. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023
  • Effect of an Action-Research nutrition intervention on the Global Diet Quality Score of Colombian adolescent. Correa-Guzman N, Restrepo-Mesa S. et al. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023
  • The Global Diet Quality Score is Associated with Higher Nutrient Adequacy and Depression, but not with Anthropometric Outcomes among Urban Vietnamese Adolescents and Youths. Nguyen P, Mai LM, et al. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. New York, 2023

Contact Us

To learn more about our Action-Research on Adolescent and Young Women Nutrition program, contact us at nutrition@nyas.org.