Interventions in Small Island Developing States to improve diet, with a focus on the consumption of local, nutritious foods: a systematic review

Emily Haynes*, Eden Augustus, Catherine R. Brown, Cornelia Guell, Viliamu Iese, Lili Jia, Karyn Morrissey, Nigel Unwin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Introduction: Food security in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is an international policy priority. SIDS have high rates of nutrition-related non-communicable diseases, including obesity and type 2 diabetes, micronutrient deficiencies and, in many, persistent childhood stunting. This is associated with an increasing reliance on imported processed food of poor nutritional quality. Calls have been made for strengthening local food systems, resilient to climate change, to increase the consumption of nutritious locally produced food. We aimed to systematically review interventions intended to improve diet in SIDS, and specifically explore whether these interventions applied a local food approach. 

Methods: The search strategy was applied to 11 databases, including in health, social science and agriculture. Screening of titles, abstracts and data extraction was undertaken in duplicate. Risk of bias was assessed using Cochrane tools. Narrative synthesis of the results was undertaken. The study protocol was registered (PROSPERO registration number: 2020CRD42020201274). 

Results: From 26 062 records, 154 full texts were reviewed and 24 were eligible. Included studies were from the Caribbean, Pacific, Mauritius and Singapore. Five were a randomised study design, one an interrupted time series analysis, eight controlled and ten uncontrolled pre-test and post-test. Nine studies included some aspect of a local food approach. Most interventions (n=15) included nutrition education, with evidence of effectiveness largely limited to those that also included practical skills training, such as vegetable gardening or food preparation. Three studies were considered low risk of bias, with the majority (n=13) of moderate risk. 

Conclusion: There is a lack of robust evidence on interventions to improve diet in SIDS. The evidence suggests that multifaceted approaches are likely to be the most effective, and local food approaches may promote effectiveness, through mechanisms of cultural and contextual relevance. Further development and evaluation of interventions is urgently required to increase the comparability of these studies, to help guide policy on improving nutrition in SIDS.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000410
JournalBMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health
Pages (from-to)243-253
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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