A completed puzzle tells a story more effectively than any individual piece could on its own, but every piece is necessary to complete the image.
That’s an analogy for how the Global Nutrition and Health Atlas—a public resource with diet-related health information for more than 190 countries spanning across 30 years—works. The GNHA has thousands of contributors, and when more pieces are added, the picture becomes clearer.
Powered by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts and Nestlé Research, the GNHA houses large amounts of data that researchers, students, practitioners, and health policymakers can use in their work.
“When researchers and policymakers have access to a fuller picture of dietary patterns, gaps in nutrient intake, environmental impact, eating habits and nutritional requirements for children and infants,” says Elena Naumova, chair of the Division of Nutrition Epidemiology and Data Science at the Friedman School, “they have a better idea of what and where resources need to be deployed to promote healthy nutrition.”
The GNHA was created to foster cross-collaboration in developing a more complete response to pressing global nutrition challenges, such as access to nutritious and affordable foods, nutrition education, and sustainable food systems.
Its data and visualizations can be used to design tailored, evidence-based interventions and inform policy changes or resource distribution. Ultimately, these combined efforts at individual, community, and policy levels can have a positive ripple effect on the nutrition and health statuses of people throughout the world, says Naumova.
Tufts Now spoke with Naumova to learn more about the Atlas’s genesis, gaps in data, and the database’s role in future nutrition research.
Tufts Now: What prompted the creation of the Global Nutrition and Health Atlas?
Elena Naumova: We wanted the GNHA to be both a tool of research and public service empowerment. Vast data sets are available online, however, they can be hard to find or difficult to understand. To address those challenges, we created one location that contains pertinent health data and allows for it to be presented in a visually interesting way.
The site is a repository for over 1,000 metrics belonging to six dimensions: demographics, dietary intake, nutritional status, health status, health economics, and food sustainability. The data included is wide-ranging, highly detailed, validated, and publicly available. Not only is it important to provide high quality data, but also to give tools for proper analysis and application.