Meet Our Partners: WHO/FAO GIFT

WHO/FAO GIFT

Our partnerships with key global organizations drastically expand the capabilities of GDD. Learn more about who our partners are, the challenges they face, and how we're working together. Today: WHO/FAO Global Individual Food Consumption Data Tool (GIFT).

Introduce yourself and your organization.

Catherine Leclercq, Nutrition Officer, leading the FAO/WHO GIFT initiative, Nutrition and Food Systems Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Tell us about WHO/FAO GIFT's mission and work in general.

FAO/WHO GIFT is an open access online platform, hosted by FAO and supported by WHO, for collation and dissemination of Individual Quantitative Food Consumption (IQFC) data. The tool collates, harmonizes and makes publicly available microdata on individual food consumption and computes specific indicators on nutrition and food safety at national and subnational levels, all over the world and free of charge. 

The world needs harmonized IQFC data to efficiently address the growing challenges of malnutrition and food safety. The FAO/WHO GIFT is determined to fill the major gap in the knowledge of what people are consuming around the world, and to use these data to better inform agricultural and food policies and programs at global, national and sub-national level and make them more nutrition sensitive.

To achieve this goal, the FAO/WHO GIFT team is working towards populating the platform with a significant number of datasets and metadata information on existing surveys. FAO/WHO GIFT also provides an inventory of existing IQFC data,  prioritizing low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Intense interaction with data owners and potential end-users through webinars is aimed to ensure that the platform meets the needs of decision-makers to support them in using the data for evidence-based policies and to stimulate data sharing by data owners.

What are the biggest challenges the FAO/WHO GIFT initiative faces in completing its objectives?

One of the main challenges that THE FAO/WHO GIFT initiative faces is to obtain the agreement from data owners to sharing their data publicly. This may happen due to many reasons. There might be objections against sharing their datasets by research institutes when research findings have not been published yet. In other cases, the data may be considered sensitive and there can be a concern of possible misuse of the data that could lead to contradictory interpretations. Moreover, there are also legal and ethical issues related to data sharing.

Secondly, although IQFC are being collected in many low-income countries as shown by our inventory, these data are often collected through small-scale surveys. They are largely under-utilized due to poor dissemination and lack of harmonization that does not allow comparisons across time periods, seasons and geographical locations.

How does or will GDD fit into GIFT's work and mission?

The common ground between the FAO/WHO GIFT and GDD at Tufts University, which constitutes the base for the close collaboration, is the collation and use of existing IQFC data.

The Friedman School’s Global Dietary Database (GDD) is an extremely valuable international resource collaborative and global project that retrieves and collates data on individual food consumption since 2008. The worldwide network of data owners that has been organized as consortium members is a great resource that can be merged with the network of data owners created by the FAO/WHO GIFT team.

What are you aiming to jointly achieve in partnership with GDD? 

Both initiatives have entered into a partnership aimed at increasing the capacity of all stakeholders to monitor individual quantitative food consumption data. We are developing together protocols for assessment of quality of data, harmonization of data through mapping of datasets to a common food classification and description system (FoodEx2).

The collaboration between FAO/WHO GIFT and GDD will facilitate the sharing and exchange of data and resources to support the development of two publicly available multipurpose global databases, ultimately providing stakeholders, including policymakers, researchers, and clinicians with access to valuable information on individual food consumption. By supporting each other’s initiatives, we will be able to share experiences and avoid duplication of efforts.

What directions or results do you hope to see in the field of global nutrition research in the future?

There is already an increasing recognition of the value of data sharing by organizations, academia, regulatory agencies and industry worldwide. We hope, together with GDD, to create a snowball effect towards data sharing in the field of global nutrition research and to develop solutions to tackle dietary data scarcity. 

We also hope to see in the near future a very concrete linkage between harmonized IQFC data and nutrition sensitive policies, so that they can contribute to a healthier food environment and healthier diets worldwide.

Thank you to Catherine Leclercq for contributing to this quarter's Meet Our Partners Section. For more information on WHO/FAO GIFT, please visit their website and follow FAO on Twitter.

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