Dietary assessment in Africa: Integration with innovative technology
Dietary assessment remains an important factor in understanding dietary practices and nutritional status and, helps inform policy and practice aimed at improving health and developmental outcomes in many populations. Adequate dietary intake is the basis of good health. Poor nutrition is a major limitation to growth and development throughout Africa. With poor access to clinics and hospitals, measuring dietary intake and nutritional status is one of the most efficient and informative means of understanding the health of a community. Further, the rise of both under- and overnutrition throughout Africa has created a double burden of disease, increasing the risk of both infectious and chronic diseases, making the need for a more specific dietary assessment critical for the prevention and treatment of nutrition related illnesses. In Africa and other less-developed regions, dietary assessment has often relied on respondents to recall types and amounts of foods consumed by populations of interest. Although use of recall methodology remains to be the most feasible strategy in these settings, there is great need to develop more creative and less dependent means of accurate dietary assessment, which are culturally suitable in impoverished regions of the world, and particularly among low-literacy populations. New technology-based methods that assist in more accurate and reliable dietary assessment are beginning to emerge. Most of these innovations are based on using technology to assist dietary recall. Such methods are shown to be effective, but still do not entirely remedy the challenges related to accurate and valid recall and measurement. The expanding use of such technology in these regions offers an opportunity for exploring the benefits and general acceptance of using technology to improve health. Thus, this paper reviews the literature concerning current diet assessment methods used in Africa as well as the implications for new and innovative methods and discusses the potential for utilization of technologically-based dietary assessment methods in Africa.