Noguchi Memorial Institute showcases FRANI App for dietary assessment, behaviour change

Noguchi Memorial Institute showcases FRANI App for dietary assessment, behavior change

The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) recently organized a research dissemination workshop to showcase the evidence-based validity of their newly developed Food Recognition Assistance and Nudging Insights (FRANI) App.

The FRANI App, a collaborative effort between NMIMR, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Plant Village, and Penn State University, is an innovative mobile phone application that utilizes  (A.I.) to address knowledge gaps in dietary practices within the country.

Its primary objective is to bridge the evidence gap by recognizing foods, tracking food-group consumption, providing diet-related statistics, and offering gamified nudges to promote healthier dietary behaviour.

Dr Gloria Folson, Project Co-Lead at NMIMR, emphasized the importance of the FRANI App in tackling the global concern of unhealthy diets.

She explained that traditional methods of dietary measurement are time-consuming and expensive, which necessitates the need for efficient phone-based interventions that can improve nutrition data collection and dietary quality, particularly among adolescents in low- and middle-income countries.

FRANI aims to encourage Ghanaians to adopt better dietary habits and enhance their overall well-being.

Dr Folson further highlighted that the project, which assessed the diet and nutrition of school-age children, adolescents, and youth in urban and peri-urban areas, will provide valuable evidence to inform behaviour change interventions and policy adjustments in Ghana.

She emphasized that the FRANI App, with its ability to monitor food quality, can be utilized by agencies such as the Ghana School Feeding Programme and individuals who seek to improve their dietary behaviour and health.

Although the FRANI App is not yet available on the App Store, NMIMR plans to scale up its availability to meet the demand of Ghanaians and ensure its sustainability.

Dr Folson expressed optimism that by the end of 2023, the app will be ready for public use. She encouraged interested individuals and institutions to engage with NMIMR for further details.

Dr Folson also urged adolescents to prioritize their health, emphasizing that the consumption of unhealthy foods is on the rise and directly impacts their well-being.

Dr Aulo Gelli, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI, highlighted the validation process for FRANI, involving dietary assessment among adolescent children in Ghana and .

The FRANI App was validated against weighed records, considered the gold standard for dietary assessment, and the standard multi-pass 24-hour recall method.

The results demonstrated that FRANI performs equally well and, in many cases, even better than the 24-hour recall method in measuring daily nutrient intake.

Furthermore, two randomized pilot studies conducted in Ghana and Vietnam with adolescent girls assessed the feasibility of FRANI and its impact on food choices, yielding impressive results.

The research project, titled ‘Nudging for Good,' is an interdisciplinary collaboration involving IFPRI, Plant Village at Penn State University, NMIMR, the National Institute of Nutrition, and the Thai Nguyen National Hospital in Vietnam.

It was initially funded by Foundation Botnar, and ongoing research is currently supported by the CGIAR initiative on Resilient Cities, which aims to enhance the sustainability, equity, and growth opportunities within informal urban and peri-urban agrifood sectors while mitigating risks to human and environmental health.

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