SHiFT congratulates Prof. Inge Brouwer on her promotion to full Professor at Wageningen University and Research

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Dr. Inge Brouwer, the lead of the CGIAR Initiative on Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation (SHiFT) was recently inaugurated by Wageningen University and Research (WUR) as full Professor of Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation.

As is the custom of WUR, Prof. Brouwer gave an inaugural lecture to colleagues from the university and invited guests on April 25, 2024, at WUR. Her lecture was titled “The Power of Diets – Reverse Thinking in Sustainable Food System Transformation in Africa and Asia.”

Prof. Brouwer started her lecture by describing her career trajectory in international nutrition research, which started with her academic studies at WUR. She explained how her career has mirrored the evolution of differing paradigms in nutrition, from the perspective in the 1970s that nutrition is a strictly physiological issue to the current paradigm of seeing nutrition as a social problem with potential solutions coming from food systems approaches.

“Diets matter!” said Prof. Brouwer. “They earn a place at the same level as an important outcome of food systems transformation along with economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.”

In her lecture, she called for reverse thinking. Instead of focusing on strategies related to improving and increasing agriculture production to transform food systems, Prof. Brouwer challenged her audience to shift their focus to food systems strategies that promote healthy diets.

One such strategy is to provide consumers with information about what is a healthy diet. Prof. Brouwer highlighted her work with national partners from the Ethiopian Public Health Institute and researchers from CGIAR to develop Ethiopia’s first food-based dietary guidelines in 2021.

Food-based dietary guidelines are not only useful for consumers. Researchers can examine national agricultural production data to see if national production is sufficient for the entire population to consume a diet meeting the guidelines. In Ethiopia, analysis by Prof. Brouwer and team demonstrated that cereal production far exceeded what was needed, but there was not enough fruit, vegetable, and dairy production. Policymakers, development banks, and other funders can use this information to determine where to make investments and provide other kinds of support.

Prof. Brouwer presented other examples from her recent research with SHiFT on healthy diets, specifically her work on metrics for dietary assessment and the role of the food environment on adolescent diets and dietary choices, both from Viet Nam. She called for building more evidence for food systems innovations and how they can (potentially) transform food systems towards sustainable healthy diets, not only by assessing impact but also by studying the processes leading to transformation.

The International Food Policy Research Institute and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT lead SHiFT in close collaboration with Wageningen University and Research and with contributions from the International Potato Center. SHiFT combines high-quality nutritional and social science research capacity with development partnerships to generate innovative, robust solutions that contribute to healthier, more sustainable dietary choices and consumption of sustainable healthy diets. It builds on CGIAR’s unparalleled track record of agricultural research for development, including ten years of work on food systems and nutrition under the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.

Header image: Prof. Inge Brouwer was recently inaugurated by Wageningen University and Research (WUR) as full Professor of Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation. Photo by Guy Ackerman. 

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