Determining key research areas for healthier diets and sustainable food systems in Viet Nam
Vietnamese food systems are undergoing rapid transformation, with important implications for human and environmental health and economic development. Poverty has decreased, and diet quality and undernutrition have improved significantly since the end of the Doi Moi reform period (1986-1993) as a result of Viet Nam opening its economy and increasing its regional and global trade. Yet poor diet quality is still contributing the triple burden of malnutrition, with 25 percent stunting among children under age 5, 26 percent and 29 percent of women and children, respectively, anemic, and 21 percent of adults overweight.
Agricultural production systems have shifted from predominantly diverse smallholder systems to larger more commercialized and specialized systems, especially for crops, while the ‘meatification’ of the Vietnamese diet is generating serious trade-offs between improved nutrition and sustainability of the Vietnamese food systems. The food processing industry has developed rapidly, together with food imports, resulting in new and processed food products penetrating the food retail outlets, trending towards an increase in the Westernized consumption patterns that are shifting nutrition-related problems towards overweight and obesity and, with it, an increase of non-communicable disease-related health risks.
While regulatory policies exist across the food system, these are not systematically implemented, making food safety a major concern for consumers and policy makers alike. Where data exists, it is not easy to aggregate with data from across food system dimensions, making it difficult for Viet Nam to make an informed analysis of current and potential food system trade-offs.
In our research, we reviewed existing literature and data, and applied a food systems framework to develop an initial food systems profile for Viet Nam and to identify a comprehensive set a of research questions to fill current data gaps identified through the review. Insights on these would provide the comprehensive evidence needed to inform policy makers on how to develop new food systems policies for Viet Nam, and further refine and improve existing policies to achieve better quality diets and more sustainable food systems in Viet Nam.
Based on these, we then engaged with stakeholders to develop research priorities in the Viet Nam context and identified 25 priority research questions. This paper aims to stimulate such reflections by clearly outlining key areas for research, government policy, and development programs on priority investment to build the evidence base around inclusive food systems interventions that aim to result in healthier diets and more sustainable food systems for Viet Nam.
Raneri; J.E.; Kennedy, G.; Nguyen, T.; Wertheim-Heck, S.; Do, H.; Nguyen, P.H.