The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2013 | Economic and Food Systems Development and the Evolution of Diet-Related Disease
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Economic and Food Systems Development and the Evolution of Diet-Related Disease

Principal supervisor: Bhavani Shankar (SOAS)

Co-supervisor: Alan Dangour (LSHTM)

The process of development - including increased income and urbanisation, along with associated changes in agricultural and food systems - is linked with changes in national diet and disease profiles. This nutrition transition can result in a double burden of disease whereby health problems associated with energy and nutrient insufficiency (undernutrition) remain, while rates of nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (overnutrition) increase. However, there is little existing research on the broad empirical associations between economic development at one end, and the evolution of food availability, diets, the prevalence of undernutrition and development of NCDs at the other.

This PhD project has the following aim/objectives:

  • To empirically investigate the association of changes in food availability and their policy and economic development drivers with the emergence of the double burden of disease.
  • Test hypotheses regarding the development of diet-related disease in the process of economic development, e.g. more equitable growth results in lower NCD risk.
  • To enable an appreciation of the future evolution of diet-related disease globally, based on patterns observed in the past.

This PhD project will review theories of nutrition transition, the roles of economic development and food availability in driving transitions and the implications for health, and develop a conceptual model. Secondary data will then be assimilated for empirical work comprised of two strands:

(i) The first strand will involve the estimation of cross-country statistical/econometric relationships between variables relating to economic development, food availability and under- and overnutrition and non-communicable disease prevalence. This will pool data from a variety of sources (e.g. FAOSTAT, World Development Indicators, Lancet Series) and be based on multi-level modelling.

(ii) In the second strand, one or two country case studies based on longitudinal secondary datasets will be pursued, focusing on the micro linkages between household economic evolution, food consumption and dietary changes and development of diet-related disease.

Candidate Requirements

Candidates are required to:

  • Have a UK Masters degree (or qualification deemed equivalent by the school) in a discipline with relevance to the research topic described above (e.g. economics, epidemiology, nutrition).
  • Possess strong statistical modelling skills.

Desirable skills include:

  • Previous research experience in topics relating to food consumption, diets, nutrition or health.

Specific training will be given where needed in nutrition, food economics or epidemiology. The student will acquire skills to do interdisciplinary research and carry out complex data analysis. The student will benefit from close association with the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research in Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH), an interdisciplinary research collaboration between SOAS, LSHTM and RVC (

Key References

World Health Organisation: 2008-2013 action plan for the global strategy for the prevention and control on noncommunicable diseases: prevent and control cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2008. 

Dangour, AD, Green, R, Häsler, B, Rushton, J, Shankar, B, and Waage, J, 2012. Linking agriculture and health in low- and middle-income countries: an interdisciplinary research agenda. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 71 (2).pp. 222-228.

Mazzochi, M., Shankar, B. and Traill, W. (2012). The Development of Global Diets since ICN 1992: Influences of Agri-food Sector Trends and Policies. FAO Commodity and Trade Policy Research Working Paper no.34, Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal supervisor: Bhavani Shankar,,

Co-supervisor: Alan Dangour,,

Further information about PhDs at SOAS and the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy is available from:

PhDs at SOAS:

CeDEP - This studentship is run by the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP). CeDEP is based within the Department of Finance and Management  Studies.

How to apply:

Applicants must complete the attached Bloomsbury College PhD Studentship application form.

The completed Studentship application form should be returned to:

Miss Alicia Sales, Scholarships Officer, Registry, SOAS, Thornaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG

For any queries regarding the studentship application form, please email

Applicants must also make an application for MPhil/PhD at SOAS:

IMPORTANT: As the studentship is run by the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP), which is based within the Department of Financial and Management Studies (DeFiMS), applicants must choose MPhil/PhD FINANCIAL AND MANAGEMENT STUDIES as the programme of study in their application for admission.


The application for MPhil/PhD should be submitted as soon as possible but no later than the Studentship's closing date as Studentship applicants must be accepted for the MPhil/PhD.

Closing date for applications is 15 April 2013