Prof. Grace Marquis and research partner awarded international chair

Dr. Grace Marquis
Dr. Grace Marquis

By Jim Hynes

A McGill professor was part of a team awarded a research chair of another kind last week – and that’s good news for hungry or poorly nourished children in Ghana.

Together with her research partner, Dr. Anna Lartey from the University of Ghana, Dr. Grace Marquis, Canada Research Chair in Social and Environmental Aspects of Nutrition and a professor at McGill’s School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, will be part of a program to help create international research partnerships between Canada Research Chairs and researchers from developing countries.

The International Research Chairs Initiative (IRCI) is a collaboration between Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canada Research Chairs Program. Launched in December 2007, it solicited applications for joint research between Canada Research Chairs and their counterparts at universities in the developing world.

Dr. Marquis and Dr. Lartey, IDRC Research Chair in Nutrition for Health and Socio-economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, were one of eight teams selected to receive up to $1 million over five years, each to address a key development challenge.

Their project on child health and nutrition in Ghana will focus on two seemingly contradictory priorities: the need for improved child nutrition, especially in vulnerable and in HIV-affected households, and the need to reverse increasing rates of childhood obesity in urban areas, brought about by easier access to fast foods and less exercise.

The team will develop integrated interventions to improve child nutrition by involving community, governmental, non-governmental and private partners. It will develop and test ways of improving nutrition and young mothers’ care-giving knowledge and skills in HIV-affected communities, increasing household food security and providing support mechanisms. It will also assess the extent of childhood obesity and its risk factors and develop educational tools to encourage healthy weight and eating habits among school-aged children.

“This important initiative will support a continuation of the collaboration between Dr. Lartey and myself, and the University of Ghana and McGill University,” Dr. Marquis said. “The IRCI will allow us to implement with our partners evidence-based interventions to improve young child nutritional status and health in impoverished communities. It will also provide many training opportunities for graduate students at both universities and will contribute to the formation of the future leaders in nutrition research for sub-Saharan Africa.”