Overview of research project
The objective of this research is to comparatively assess the changes in dietary habits of various populations during the COVID-19 lockdown and to also determine the effect this has on people’s health. As a result of the lockdown situation to combat the spread of COVID-19, movements have been restricted, offices have also been closed and staff asked to work from home except for essential services. This has affected people’s eating habits and brought about changes in their dietary patterns. With time, these changes may have adverse effects on the health of people especially if the changes involved an increase in the consumption of unhealthy/processed foods with reduced physical activity on the other hand. This could lead to increase in morbidity rates such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension. On the contrary, in semi-urban areas the lockdown may also offer people the opportunity to cook and eat fresh farm produce and less processed foods like they do when they go to work and do not find time to cook. In addition to restricted movements during lockdown, certain areas also experience inadequate electricity supply in their homes required for refrigeration of foods. This could reduce people’s dietary choices thereby forcing them eat monotonous diets, it could also have a positive impact of making them cook fresh foods everyday for their households depending on their financial status and access of foods from local markets. On another hand, decline in business/loss of jobs within the lockdown period has also caused a decrease in some people’s income. This will also negatively affect the quality and quantity of foods they will consume. While for yet others, being bored and staying home causes them to consume a lot more food than they would have consumed when working. These are varying risk factors for malnutrition during the lockdown period. Consequently, it is important to observe the dietary trends imposed on different populations by the lockdown and the possible health outcomes that will result from their dietary habits.

In order to collect data, a quantitative approach was adopted. The initial part of the study intends to provide information on the food consumption patterns of people in six African countries before the COVID-19 lockdown and during the lockdown period. The questionnaire was developed and converted into the online survey format using Google forms, which will ensure anonymity of the participants and enhance confidentiality. Random sampling was used to select participants per country (South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia) alongside the snowball sampling method. The questionnaire was circulated electronically via the online survey link, which will be sent across to participants via their emails and other social media platforms. It will not be possible to go around collecting data during this period due to the restrictions in movements and social distancing. Six African countries have been selected for this study based on their large population and lockdown duration. The pre and post dietary patterns will be studied in order to bring out the differences. Here, the effectiveness of current nutrition and public health national policies will be searched for, like dietary guidelines, media campaigns, restrictions on marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, etc. Participation will be voluntary and informed consent will be obtained.

The study will enable the researchers to determine the health outcomes (either positive or negative) that these changes may cause and proffer useful solutions.
Subsequently, based on the results from the study, a strategy to improve access to healthy diets may be developed especially for those areas found to have higher rates of malnutrition.
Name of researcher/developer
*Hema Kesa, Eridiong Onyenweaku and Alex Kamgain
Primary organisation
University of Johannesburg
Opportunity type
Opportunity detail
Collaboration: To collaborate with other African and global Universities/ Scholars on this type of research
Funding: This study can be extended to other countries but funding will be needed.
Self-funded (e.g. from own or institutional resources)
Stage of development
Research in progress
Research Category