Poster Topical Area: Global Nutrition

Location: Hall D

Poster Board Number: 574

P12-070 - Dietary Beliefs and Practices Among Liberian Refugees and their Ghanaian Host Community: Findings from Buduburam, Ghana

Monday, Jun 11
8:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Objectives: To examine the exchange of dietary practices among Liberian refugees living in a protracted refugee situation in Ghana and the native Ghanaians living in close proximity to them.


Methods: In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted across two to three generations of Liberian (n=14) and Ghanaian (n=13) women ≥ 16 years of age from 12 households living in and around Buduburam. Grounded theory guided qualitative data collection and analysis (following information saturation), leading to a conceptual model describing factors contributing to dietary patterns.


Results: Seven domains informed direct and indirect pathways influencing dietary patterns: 1) social support, 2) nutrition knowledge, 3) food preparation, 4) food access, 5) food availability, 6) cultural food beliefs, and 7) national identity. Social support was universally associated with food availability. Women drew nutrition knowledge from health clinics, but Ghanaians were more likely to rightly recognize that some foods were more nutritious. Liberians familiar with Ghanaians were more likely to engage in cultural food exchange and prepare Ghanaian foods.Among Liberians, food acquisition methods shifted from farming in Liberia to purchasing in Ghanaian markets. While most Liberians and Ghanaians felt that culturally-relevant foods were available, they were often prohibitively expensive. Despite their severe food insecurity, culture was extremely important to Liberians, and they expressed strong opposition to giving up traditional foods. Ghanaians separated foods by culture, indicating which were theirs (e.g., kenkey) and which were Liberian staples (e.g., rice). Ghanaians expressed less acceptance of traditional Liberian foods than Liberians did of traditional Ghanaian foods.


Conclusions: The close proximity in which Liberians and Ghanaians lived within and around Buduburam presented a unique opportunity to gain deep insight into how exposure to a host country affects dietary beliefs and practices among refugees and how host communities respond to refugees dietary influences. Results suggest that nutrition education and food availability and access issues need to be addressed with culturally-sensitive programs targeting both the refugee and host communities.



Funding Source:

Funding for this study was received from the West African Research Association through a postdoctoral fellowship to Dr. Amber Hromi-Fiedler.


Conceptual Model Describing Factors Contributing to Dietary Patterns

CoAuthors: Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, PhD – Yale School of Public Health; Adam Sandow – Buduburam Nutrition Program, Ghana; Daniel Gallego-Pérez – Buduburam Nutrition Program, Ghana; Anna Lartey, PhD – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Amber Hromi-Fiedler, PhD, MPH – Yale School of Public Health

Jennifer Mandelbaum

PhD Student
University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina