American University of Beirut

School and Community Drivers of Child Diets in Arab Cities: Identifying Levers for Intervention (SCALE Project)
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    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 cho​ices 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.

    Research Timeline: 2018-2023



    Explore the Report Cards Revealing the Key Findings for Greater Beirut


    ​                                                      Report Card 2022                                             2022  ​ملخص البحث

                                                              Greater Beirut​                                                     بيروت الكبرى​



    Click on each conference to explore the posters presented​

    N&G conference.png

    The 10th International Conference on Nutrition and Growth (N&G 2023)

    London, United Kingdom

    March 30 - April 1, 2023

    The 7th Annual Agriculture, Nutrition and Health (AHN) Academy Week 

    Online and South Africa ​

    June 20-30, 2022



    The videos serve as a powerful tool to increase awareness among parents and children about the detrimental effects of unhealthy food environments







    How neighbourhood food shops influence children’s diets in Beirut and Tunis​

    Most food retailers surrounding schools in the Lebanese and Tunisian capitals sell unhealthy foods, and children in schools whose neighborhoods have a higher density of unhealthy food retailers and advertisements are more likely to be overweight or more 

    Un détaillant alimentaire près d’une école publique dans le quartier de Tariq El Jdideh à Beyrouth, au Liban.



    SCALE Webinar Series

    SESSION 1:

    The Economics of Food Environments and Food Choice


    SESSION 2:

    Food Environments of School-Aged Children​


    SESSION 3:

    Multi Level Determinants of Nutritional Status​

    Stay Tuned!


    AI & Machine Learning ​

    On November 3, 2023 -  three team members gave a capacity building session in the "3rd Africa Food Environment Research Network (FERN2023) Meeting” discussing the use of wearable cameras and machine learning to capture children food exposures, sharing challenges and lesson learned.




    • Dr. Hala Ghattas​ (PI), Assistant Research Professor and Interim Director, CRPH, AUB
    • Dr. 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
    • Dr. Jad Chaaban (Co-I), Associate Professor of Applied Economics, Department of Agricultural Sciences, AUB
    • Dr. ​Ali Chalak (Co-I), Associate Professor of Applied Economics, Department of Agricultural Sciences, AUB
    • Dr. Shady Elbassuoni​ (Co-I), Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, AUB​



    Research Team

    • Aya El Sammak, Research Assistant, CRPH
    • Christelle Akl, PhD student, Faculty of Health Sciences, AUB
    • Gloria Safadi, Research Assistant, CRPH
    • Houda Ben Gharbia, Research Associate, INNTA
    • Marie Elizabeth Ragi, ​Research Assistant, CRPH
    • Marwa Khammassi: INNTA​

    • Meriem Thabet, PhD student, INNTA

    • Nehmat El Helou, Research Assistant, CRPH
    • Nadine El-Rashidi, Research Assistant, CRPH
    • Sara Katerji, Research Assistant, Department of Computer Science, AUB​
    • Sonia Sassi, Research Associate, INNTA
    • Tarek Trabelsi, Statistician, INNTA
    • Yorgo Zoughby, Research Assistant, Department of Computer Science, AUB​


    • International Development Research Center (IDRC)​


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