Food & Nutrition

    Women's Health

Post-Doctoral Fellowships

United Kingdom

Towards healthier culinary practices among overweight and obese Ghanaian women

This article summarizes the outcomes of the postdoctoral project strated in: 11/01/2019

There is an abnormally high prevalence of obesity and associated diseases, such as type-II diabetes, cancers and high blood pressure, among Ghanaian women, whether they live in Ghana or elsewhere. Could the traditional Ghanaian diet be contributing to this health problem? 

To answer this question, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield in the UK and AXA Research Fund Women Health Fellowship Grantee Hibbah Osei-Kwasi has been studying what Ghanaian women in Ghana and Ghanaian immigrant women in England eat on a daily basis and how they prepare their meals at home. Contrary to the popular conception that immigrants succumb to the fast-food culture in their host high-income countries, seemingly healthy traditional diets can also contain excess calories and fat.  

Hibbah found that Ghanaian women, in both Ghana and the UK, often cook from scratch and adhere to the idea of feeding their families in culturally acceptable ways. Indeed, many women maintain their traditional diets after migrating and perceive their dietary practices as being healthy, so dissociating them from overweight and obesity. Another major result was that despite recognizing obesity as an important health issue, Ghanaian women did not see changing their cooking behaviours as a priority.  

The research suggests that socio-cultural “rules” often dictate which foods are considered preferable and that cooking, for Ghanaian women has a range of dimensions. Perception of “food cooking”, while certainly linked to nutrition and health, also have social and emotional associations. There is therefore the need to continue to challenge the idea that women lack the knowledge or will to cook healthy food. Indeed, they know what healthy and unhealthy diets and cooking entails. Instead, health promotion interventions need to emphasise the cultural and emotional connotations of cooking in addition to the usual emphasis on physical health recommendations. Nutritionists also need to work together with other disciplines, such as the arts and media, to make a significant impact. 

The results for this study were obtained thanks to photovoice interviews and a community readiness model (CRM) using a semi-structured interview tool with key informants, such as religious and other key community members. Photovoice is a participatory photography and digital storytelling method that provides an accessible way to describe real-world situations. Questions like: what comes to mind when you think of good cooking; what comes to mind when you think of cooking Ghanaian foods; what makes cooking easy/difficult for you? 

The evidence garnered from this project has already been shared with academic and non-academic audiences (e.g. conferences, publications and community workshops via zoom). This has produced evidence to help reduce obesity and related health problems among women of African origin in the UK and beyond through context-specific and culturally appropriate interventions. For example, a community-based intervention to improve lifestyle behaviours (1). 



Women's Health Fellowhip: Outcome Summary

 The following article summarizes all outcomes from 8 postdoctoral research projects from the Women's Helath Fellowship. 

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Why Traditional Cooking Isn’t Always Healthier: The Case of Ghanaians in Manchester and in Accra

In this article, Dr. Hibbah Araba Osei-Kwasi, an AXA post doctoral fellow at University of Sheffield explores the drivers and health impacts of dietary practices of ghanaian migrants in the UK. 

Read the article



University of Sheffield


United Kingdom