Skip to main content Accessibility help

Linking agriculture and health in low- and middle-income countries: an interdisciplinary research agenda

  • Alan D. Dangour (a1), Rosemary Green (a1), Barbara Häsler (a2), Jonathan Rushton (a2), Bhavani Shankar (a3) and Jeff Waage (a3)...

Recent global fluctuations in food prices and continuing environmental degradation highlight the future challenge of feeding a growing world population. However, current dialogues rarely address the relationship between agricultural changes and health. This relationship is traditionally associated with the role of food in nutrition and with food safety, and while these are key interactions, we show in this paper that the relationship is far more complex and interesting. Besides the direct effects of agriculture on population nutrition, agriculture also influences health through its impact on household incomes, economies and the environment. These effects are felt particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where dramatic changes are affecting the agriculture–health relationship, in particular the growth of nutrition-related chronic disease and the associated double burden of under- and over-nutrition. Greater understanding of the negative effects of agriculture on health is also needed. While lengthening food value chains make the chain of influence between agricultural policy, food consumption, nutrition and health more complex, there remain opportunities to improve health by changing agricultural systems. The first challenge in doing this, we suggest, is to improve our capacity to measure the impact of agricultural interventions on health outcomes, and vice versa.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Linking agriculture and health in low- and middle-income countries: an interdisciplinary research agenda
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Linking agriculture and health in low- and middle-income countries: an interdisciplinary research agenda
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Linking agriculture and health in low- and middle-income countries: an interdisciplinary research agenda
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Alan D. Dangour, fax +44 20 7958 8111, email
Hide All
1.Godfray, HC, Beddington, JR, Crute, IR et al. (2010) Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327, 812818.
2.Foresight (2011) The Future of Food and Farming. Final project report. London: The Government Office for Science.
3.World Bank (2007) World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. Washington, DC: World Bank.
4.Hawkesworth, S, Dangour, AD, Johnston, D et al. (2010) Feeding the world healthily: the challenge of measuring the effects of agriculture on health. Philos Trans R Soc 365, 30833097.
5.Greger, M (2007) The human/animal interface: emergence and resurgence of zoonotic infectious diseases. Crit Rev Microbiol 33, 243299.
6.Leibler, JH, Otte, J, Roland-Holst, D et al. (2009) Industrial food animal production and global health risks: exploring the ecosystems and economics of avian influenza. Ecohealth 6, 5870.
7.Antle, J & Pingali, P (1994) Pesticides, productivity, and farmer health: a Philippine case study. Am J Agric Econ 73, 418430.
8.Gillespie, S (2006) Agriculture and HIV/AIDS. In Understanding the Links between Agriculture and Health [Hawkes, C and Ruel, MT]. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
9.Asenso-Okyere, K, Aragon, C, Thangata, P et al. (2010) Health Interaction with Farm Labour Productivity. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
10.Hardin, LS (2008) Meetings that changed the world: Bellagio 1969: the green revolution. Nature 455, 470471.
11.Evenson, RE & Gollin, D (2003) Assessing the impact of the green revolution, 1960 to 2000. Science 300, 758762.
12.Bhutta, ZA, Ahmed, T, Black, RE et al. (2008) What works? Interventions for maternal and child undernutrition and survival. Lancet 371, 417440.
13.Iannotti, L, Cunningham, K & Ruel, MT (2009) Improving Diet Quality and Micronutrient Nutrition: Homestead Food Production in Bangladesh. IFPRI Discussion Paper 00928. Washington: IFPRI.
14.Toledo, A & Burlingame, B (2006) Biodiversity and nutrition: a common path toward global food security and sustainable development. J Food Compos Anal 19, 477483.
15.Low, JW, Arimond, M, Osman, N et al. (2007) A food-based approach introducing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes increased vitamin A intake and serum retinol concentrations in young children in rural Mozambique. J Nutr 137, 13201327.
16.Mwanga, RO & Ssemakula, G (2011) Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes for food, health and wealth in Uganda. Int J Agric Sustain 9, 4249.
17.Popkin, BM, Adair, LS & Ng, SW (2012) Global nutrition transition and the pandemic of obesity in developing countries. Nutr Rev 70, 3–21.
18.Drewnowski, A & Popkin, BM (1997) The nutrition transition: new trends in the global diet. Nutr Rev 55, 3143.
19.Nugent, R (2011) Bringing Agriculture to the Table: How Agriculture and Food can Play a Role in Preventing Chronic Disease. Chicago: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
20.Lock, K, Smith, RD, Dangour, AD et al. (2010) Health, agricultural, and economic effects of adoption of healthy diet recommendations. Lancet 376, 16991709.
21.De Janvry, A & Sadoulet, E (2009) Agricultural growth and poverty reduction: additional evidence. World Bank Res Obs 25, 120.
22.Christiaensen, L, Demery, L & Kuhl, J (2010) The (Evolving) Role of Agriculture in Poverty Reduction: An Empirical Perspective. WIDER Working Paper No. 2010/36. Availableat: (Accessed 11 January 2012).
23.Headey, D (2011) Turning economic growth into nutrition-sensitive growth. Background paper for the conference “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health” organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2011, New Delhi, 10–12 February 2011. Availableat: (Accessed 11 January 2012).
24.Gillespie, S & Kadiyala, S (2011) Exploring the Agriculture-Nutrition Disconnect in India. 2020 Conference Brief 20, Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. Availableat: (Accessed 11 January 2012).
25.Wild, CP (2007) Aflatoxin exposure in developing countries: the critical interface of agriculture and health. Food Nutr Bull 28(2 Suppl.), S372S380.
26.Henson, S (2003) Economics of Food Safety in Developing Countries. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization.
27.Keiser, J, De Castro, MC, Maltese, MF et al. (2005) Effect of irrigation and large dams on the burden of malaria on a global and regional scale. Am J Trop Med Hyg 72(4), 392406.
28.Mutero, C, McCartney, M & Boelee, E (2006) Agriculture, Malaria and Water-Associated Diseases. In Understanding the Links between Agriculture and Health [Hawkes, C and Ruel, MT, editors]. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
29.Anderson, K (2010) Globalization's effects on world agricultural trade, 1960–2050. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 365, 30073021.
30.Delgado, C, Rosegrant, M, Steinfeld, H et al. (1999) Livestock to 2020: The Next Food Revolution. Food, Agriculture and the Environment Discussion Paper 28. Washington, DC: IFPRI.
31.Rushton, J (2009) The Economics of Animal Health and Production. Wallingford, UK: CABI.
32.Coker, R, Rushton, J, Mounier-Jack, S et al. Towards a conceptual framework to support one-health research for policy on emerging zoonoses. Lancet Infect Dis 11(4), 326331.
33.Steinfeld, H, Gerber, P, Wassenaar, T et al. (2006) Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Rome, Italy: Food and Agricultural Organization.
34.Wierup, M & Haggblom, P (2010) An assessment of soybeans and other vegetable proteins as source of Salmonella contamination in pig production. Acta Vet Scand 52, 15.
35.Taylor, NM & Hinrichs, J (2012) Designing and implementing livestock value chain studies: a practical aid for Highly Pathogenic and Emerging Disease (HPED) control. Animal Production and Health Guidelines. No. 10. Rome, Italy: FAO.
36.Taylor, NM & Rushton, J (2011) A value chain approach to animal diseases risk management: technical foundations and practical framework for field application. Animal Production and Health Guidelines. No. 4. Rome, Italy: FAO.
37.Fournie, G, Rushton, J & Pfeiffer, DU. (2012) The value of livestock disease models for policy makers can be improved by taking human behaviour into account. Vet Rec 11 February, 157158.
38.McMichael, AJ & Lindgren, E (2011) Climate change: present and future risks to health, and necessary responses. J Intern Med 270, 401413.
39.Smith, P, Martino, D, Cai, Z et al. (2007) Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. New York: Cambridge University Press.
40.Westhoek, H, Rood, T, van den Berg, M et al. (2011) The Protein Puzzle: The Consumption and Production of Meat, Dairy and Fish in the European Union. The Hague, Netherlands: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.
41.Friel, S, Dangour, AD, Garnett, T et al. (2009) Health and Climate Change 4 Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: food and agriculture. Lancet 374, 20162025.
42.Shankar, B, Brambila-Macias, J, Traill, B et al. (2012) An Evaluation of the UK Food Standards Agency's Salt Campaign. Health Econ. Availableat: (Accessed January 2012 ).
43.Pace, N, Seal, A & Costello, A (2008) Food commodity derivatives: a new cause of malnutrition? Lancet 371, 16481650.
44.Seale, J, Regmi, A & Bernstein, J (2003) International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns. Electronic Report from the Economic Research Service: United States Department of Agriculture.
45.Andreyeva, T, Long, MW & Brownell, KD (2010) The impact of food prices on consumption: a systematic review of research on the price elasticity of demand for food. Am J Public Health 100, 216222.
46.World Health Organization (2003) Diet, Nutrition and the prevention of Chronic Diseases. Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert consultation. WHO Technical Report Series: 916. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO.
47.World Health Organization (2004) The Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Geneva: WHO.
48.CC-IEE (2008) Report of the Independent External Evaluation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization.
49.Svedberg, P (1987) 841 million undernourished? World Development 27, 20812098.
50.China Health and Nutrition Survey. (accessed 1 February 2012).
51.Ng, SW, Zhai, F & Popkin, BM (2008) Impacts of China's edible oil pricing policy on nutrition. Soc Sci Med 66, 414426.
52.Popkin, BM & Du, S (2003) Dynamics of the nutrition transition toward the animal foods sector in China and its implications: a worried perspective. J Nutr 133, 11 Suppl. 2, 3898S3906S.
53.India Human Development Survey. (accessed 1 February 2012).
54.Dorward, A & Dangour, AD (2012) Agriculture and health. Br Med J 344, d7834.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
  • ISSN: 0029-6651
  • EISSN: 1475-2719
  • URL: /core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed