Study to look at nutrition, ageing and health in Bangladeshi women

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The Bangladeshi population is one of the fastest growing ethnic groups within the UK, and are amongst the most socially disadvantaged.  A grant of over £500,000 hopes to reduce existing health inequalities and promote healthy, active ageing among Bangladeshi women.

The three-year Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) project entitled, ‘Migration, nutrition and ageing across the life course in Bangladeshi families’ (MINA) will address these issues across two generations of Bangladeshi women.  The project will be led by Professor Janice Thompson at the University of Bristol.

The Bangladeshi population have poorer self-reported and measured health status indicated by higher rates of disability, obesity and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Older Bangladeshi women are particularly affected as they play a lead role in caretaking for multiple generations within relatively large extended families and many struggle to cope with the complex challenges of ageing, poverty, racism, and social exclusion.

The aim of the project is to develop processes and products to reduce existing health inequalities and promote healthy, active ageing among Bangladeshi women by gaining a better understanding of the impact of migration on nutritional status, food practices and beliefs, and experiences and perceptions of ageing amongst this group.

Janice Thompson, Professor of Public Health Nutrition and Head of the Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, said: “As in the general population, nutrition plays a crucial role in the health status of the Bangladeshi population. Despite this there is no clear understanding of how eating patterns and migration affects this group’s nutritional status and experiences of ageing. Without this information we cannot develop effective culturally tailored interventions.

“MINA will address these gaps by combining approaches, methods, and expertise not used in previous research to gain an in-depth understanding of Bangladeshi women’s nutritional status, food practices, beliefs and experiences of ageing in the UK and Bangladesh.”

The project will draw upon existing UK national survey data to improve the understanding of mechanisms underlying well-documented health inequalities experienced by Bangladeshi women with a focus on nutrition-related behaviours and conditions.

The project will then expand on this data by conducting an in-depth exploration of the biological and social effect of ageing in older Bangladeshi women (45+ years old) who migrated from Bangladesh to the UK, younger women (18-35 years old) born to migrants in the UK, and women of the same two age groups living in Bangladesh.  A public health perspective incorporating a social model of health will be used, which will allow the researchers to locate individuals in their social context and explore the impact of psychological, social, cultural and environmental factors on ageing, nutrition, health and related behaviours.

Additional information will be gathered to explore the plant and agricultural customs of Bangladeshi women living in the UK and in Bangladesh. The goal is to compare this information to determine how food-related knowledge is shared amongst two distinct generations, how knowledge sharing and food environments may differ between those living in the UK and those living in Bangladesh, and determine how these differences impact on the biological and social aspects of ageing amongst Bangladeshi women.

The MINA interdisciplinary research team comprises partners from eight disciplines and universities: public health nutrition and exercise (Janice Thompson, Bristol), public health nursing (Joy Merrell, Swansea), biological anthropology (Barry Bogin, Loughborough), health psychology (Petra Meier, Sheffield), ethnobotany (Michael Heinrich, London), environmental and media design (Vanja Garaj, Brunel), migration and social anthropology (Katy Gardner, Sussex), and social gerontology (Christina Victor, Reading).


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