Drivers of Food Choice in the Context of Overweight among Women and Children in Malawi



The prevalence of overweight is rapidly increasing in Malawi and throughout sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), but little is known about food choices and the factors driving them in SSA households. We propose to conduct a mixed methods study to identify and explain predictors of dietary intake and food choice among Malawian mother-child dyads (n=240) containing an overweight mother, child (6 months-5 years), or both. Dyads will be equally divided by urban/rural location and will be followed longitudinally during the rainy and dry seasons. In each season, we will use questionnaires to collect data on dietary intake and factors related to food choice, including food preferences, household food insecurity, female autonomy, body size perceptions, household composition, food expenditures, and socioeconomic status. During both seasons, one-quarter of the dyads will also participate in a structured observation of a market trip to document types, quantities, location, and cost of food purchases and an in-depth interview to explore factors driving food choice. The project will be a collaboration between RTI International, University of Malawi, and Harvard University. We will coordinate regularly with key stakeholders, build local capacity to conduct obesity-related research, and findings will be used to develop obesity prevention interventions.


Lead Institution

RTI International


Collaborating Institutions

University of Malawi, College of Medicine

Harvard University


Principal Investigator(s)

> Valerie Flax, PhD, International Nutrition Research Advisor, RTI: Food, Nutrition, and Obesity Policy Research Program

> Chrissie Thakwalakwa, PhD, Scientific Administrator and Research Nutritionist, University of Malawi, College of Medicine



> Lindsey Jaacks, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard University

> Mary Muth, PhD, Director, RTI: Food, Nutrition, and Obesity Policy Research Program