Seminar: ‘Optifood’ – A tool based on linear programming analysis to inform nutrition programme planning and policy decisions

Date and Time

Friday, November 7, 2014 - 12:45 to 13:45


Powerpoint presentation

Location: Upper Meeting Room, LIDC, 36 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

Speaker: Elaine Ferguson; Department of Population Health, LSHTM

Abstract: Under-nutrition contributes to high rates of maternal and child morbidity, mortality and poor development outcomes. Effective programmes and government policy are urgently needed to address under-nutrition in order realise optimal human resource potential. Mathematical modelling provides an under-utilised approach to inform nutrition programmes and government policy decisions. Its potential for this purpose is just beginning to be recognised. It is a rapid, objective and flexible method for theoretically exploring, for example, alternative nutrition interventions and for generating evidence to support government policy decisions or advocacy efforts.   

To facilitate the use of mathematical modelling for nutrition purposes, a user-friendly tool– Optifood - was recently developed, which is based on linear programming analysis. It was developed through a collaboration involving the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III Project; and will be freely available from the WHO. The tool can be used, for example, to determine whether a food-based strategy alone can ensure dietary adequacy, to develop or evaluate sets of food-based recommendations and to inform nutrition sensitive food value chain initiatives, cash transfer programmes or micronutrient intervention initiatives. This seminar aims to provide a brief introduction to Optifood, describing its structural and conceptual frameworks and illustrating its use for informing nutrition intervention programme planning and government policy decisions, using examples of its application in south-east Asia.

Bio: Elaine joined the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, as a senior lecturer, in 2008 from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Her PhD, which focused on the zinc status of young children in Malawi and Ghana, was completed at the University of Guelph, Canada. She has an interest in and commitment to strengthening nutrition programmes and research capacity in low income countries to improve maternal and child health.  She has extensive experience in nutritional assessment methodology and micronutrient nutrition, and more recently her research interests have extended to implementation research and the use of mathematical modelling to inform nutrition programmes/policy.  Elaine has extensive research networks in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and close links with the World Health Organization and the Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III Project (FANTA), FHI 360. She is a member of an international advisory committee with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.