American Univesity of Beirut

 School and community drivers of children’s diets in two Arab cities



Low- and middle-income Arab countries are undergoing a rapid nutrition transition with increases in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among young and adult populations, accompanied by a rise in diet-related non communicable diseases (NCDs). Although children's food choices and dietary behaviors are early risk factors for the development of NCDs, research on factors that influence these behaviors remains scarce in the region. School and neighborhood environments mediate the effect of societal forces on children's diets. However, little is known about the drivers of children's food choices within these environments, and their potential to be used as levers for intervention.

This project aims to inform context-specific interventions targeting childhood overweight in the urban settings of Greater Beirut and Greater Tunis, and ultimately to foster the development of food environments that enable healthy eating among children and their families.

The research uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to assess individual diets and the contextual factors that influence children's food choices. Innovative locally relevant tools were developed to describe and map food environments and food choice paths experienced by children at the level of families, schools and communities. Researchers will compare specific behavioral and contextual factors in Lebanon and Tunisia, as well as socio-cultural and gender roles that influence children's food choices. The team will also identify intervention points in the daily routine of children, including school and community food policies that represent threats to, or opportunities for healthier eating.



  • Hala Ghattas (PI), Assistant Research Professor and Interim Director, CRPH , AUB
  • Jalila El-Ati (Co-PI), Professor of Nutrition and Physiology and Head of Studies and Planning National Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INNTA), Tunisia
  • Jad Chaaban (Co-I), Associate Professor of Applied Economics, Department of Agricultural Sciences, AUB
  • Ali Chalak (Co-I), Associate Professor of Applied Economics, Department of Agricultural Sciences, AUB
  • Shady Elbassuoni (Co-I), Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, AUB​


  • Carla Makhlouf Obermeyer, Professor and Fellow, IMERA – Institute for Advanced Studies, Aix-Marseille University

Research Team 

  • Christelle Akl, PhD student, Faculty of Health Sciences, AUB
  • Houda Ben Gharbia, Research Associate, INNTA
  • Nehmat El Helou, Research Assistant, CRPH
  • Nadine El-Rashidi
  • Sonia Sassi, Research Associate, INNTA
  • Aline Semaan
  • Meriem Thabet, PhD student, INNTA
  • Tarek Trabelsi, Statistician, INNTA
  • Yorgo Zoughby, Research Assistant, Department of Computer Science, AUB​


  • International Development Research Center (IDRC)​




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