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1 Empowering global nutrition with digital technology – a health systems perspective
  1. Dominic Crocombe1,2,
  2. Nina Chad3,
  3. Charlotte Summers4,
  4. Minha Rajput-Ray1,
  5. Luke Buckner1,
  6. Sarah Armes1,
  7. Adam Strange5,
  8. Christine Delon1,
  9. Xunhan Li1,
  10. Eleanor Beck1,6,
  11. Lauren Ball1,7,
  12. Jennifer Crowley1,8,
  13. Breanna Lepre1,7,
  14. Ebiambu Agwara1,
  15. Wanja Nyaga1,
  16. Ally Jaffee1,9,
  17. Abhinav Bhansali1,10,
  18. Celia Laur1,11,
  19. Leah Gramlich12,
  20. James Bradfield1,
  21. Shane McAuliffe1,
  22. Niky Raja1,
  23. Martin Kohlmeier1,13,
  24. Emmanuel Baah1,13,
  25. Sucheta Mitra1,
  26. Kai Kargbo1,
  27. Maryam Matar14,
  28. Meis Moukayed15,
  29. Yasmin Haddad16,
  30. Dionysia Lyra17,
  31. Ahlam El-Shikieri18,
  32. Wanja Nyaga1,
  33. Pauline Douglas1,19,
  34. Kathy Martyn1,20,
  35. Ally Potterton20,
  36. Marjorie Lima Do Vale1,
  37. Claudia Tramontt1,
  38. Veronica Flores Bello1,
  39. Claudia Rodriguez1 and
  40. Sumantra Ray1,19,21
  1. 1NNEdPro Global Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Insititute of Liver and Digestive Health, University College London, London, UK
  3. 3World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland
  4. 4Diabetes Digital Media, Coventry, UK
  5. 5Swiss Re Institute, Zurich, Switzerland
  6. 6School of Health Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  7. 7School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  8. 8Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  9. 9Nutritank, UK
  10. 10Culinary Medicine, UK
  11. 11Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  12. 12Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  13. 13Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA
  14. 14United Arab Emirates Genetic Diseases Association, Dubai, UAE
  15. 15School of Arts and Sciences, American University in Dubai, UAE
  16. 16My Pedia Clinic, Dubai, UAE
  17. 17International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, Dubai, UAE
  18. 18Faculty of Applied Medical Sciences, Talibah University, Al Madinah Al Munawarh, Saudi Arabia
  19. 19School of Biomedical Sciences, Ulster University at Coleraine, Coleraine, UK
  20. 20Education and Research In Medical Nutrition Network (ERIMN), Brighton, UK
  21. 21School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


Advances in digital technologies impact several aspects of nutrition and healthcare science and practice. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NNEdPro Nutrition and COVID-19 task force, supported by the BMJ Nutrition Prevention and Health journal, produced and curated evidence-based digital repositories of nutrition-related resources and educational nutrition-related materials for healthcare professionals, policymakers and the public, tailored to different geographical regions. International research collaborations increasingly use virtual platforms to link and analyse multiple sources of data from across sectors (relating to food, nutrition, and health) with potential to gain important insights into health impact and risk prediction. National and international nutrition education initiatives based on virtual networks, including the CAN DReaM (Creating Alliances Nationally to Address Disease-Related Malnutrition) project in Canada, and the Education and Research in Medical Nutrition Network (ERIMNN) in the UK, have the potential to make nutrition education more accessible across wide geographical regions.

The rise of digital social media platforms allows for rapid dissemination of information at an unprecedented scale. Whilst this has been used to have a positive impact, it also carries a risk of harm through targeted misinformation and exploitative practice. For example, the recent WHO report into the digital marketing of breast milk substitute products revealed the predatory tactics that target vulnerable women and exploit parental health anxieties to promote a multi-billion dollar industry. On this topic, discussion in the Middle East and Pan-Africa regional networks satellite event of the Summit highlighted the need for health professionals to employ ‘traffic control on the digital information highway’.

Perhaps one of the more tangible examples of digital technology empowering healthcare practice is the proliferation of digital smart phone apps, particularly as tools in the management of chronic health conditions. Diet and lifestyle management support apps have entered the chronic disease management space. Some that utilise artificial intelligence are in development, and in some cases in clinical trials, and clinical practice. One such app designed by Diabetes Digital Media has been integrated into some NHS weight management services in the UK. These technologies aim to better understand behaviour and lifestyle change, improve patient engagement and the sustainability of lifestyle changes, and allow granular data collection and remote monitoring of outcome variables.

In developed countries, digital data platforms have been used to explore the intersection at which social determinants of health meet nutrition-related genomics and health outcomes. The challenge of severe health inequities relates closely to societal frictions and conflicts, economic market forces, and the health of education and food systems. To have the greatest impact on nutrition globally, digital technologies must account for and address health inequities that underlie the risk of malnutrition and poor health of millions of people. Furthermore, health systems do not operate in isolation. Empowering individuals and populations to live healthy lives requires a collective buy-in from the education sector. Therefore, at the Summit, several digitally-assisted educational schemes based in primary schools, community settings, medical schools, and healthcare systems in various global regions were showcased. Measuring and validating the safety and efficacy of novel digital technologies for better nutrition and health is essential for ensuring positive impacts.

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