Accra Urban Adolescent Nutrition Study is safe  - University of Ghana

BY: Kweku Zurek
Project Lead of the study, Professor Richmond Aryeetey
Project Lead of the study, Professor Richmond Aryeetey

The University of Ghana has stated that the Accra Urban Adolescent Nutrition Study is being conducted in line with international best practices and ethics of human subjects research.

The university maintains that every child participating in the study has the written approval of its parent or caregiver.

It will be recalled that earlier this week, videos of students wearing accelerometers and GPS devices were circulated on social media with accompanying commentary suggesting that their blood samples and data were taken without the approval of their parents in exchange for money.

At a press briefing to address uncertainty and misinformation regarding the study, the Project Lead of the study, Professor Richmond Aryeetey said participation in the study is completely voluntary and the devices, as well as procedures being used, are not intended to harm the children in any way.

"The study has been approved and is supported by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research’s Institutional Review Board, the Ghana Health Service, and the Ghana Education Service," Professor Aryeetey said.

"In line with international best practices and ethics of human subjects research, every child who participates must have both the parent/caregiver and the child give written informed consent and assent (that is their permission) for the household to be eligible for the study. Further, children who participate, first provide information on their diet in the past 24-hours. They are then handed the accelerometer and GPS devices to wear over the course of a 7-day period, except when they are sleeping.

"As outlined above, the study does not recruit just anyone for inclusion. They have to meet clear inclusion criteria for age, location, and consent. It is false that the devices given in the study are being used to track/monitor the children with ill-intent. On the contrary, the findings of the study will inform national policy and programmes on adolescent nutrition in Ghana".

The study

Prof Aryeetey said the study which seeks to describe the nutritional status, dietary intake, physical activity patterns, and food environment of about 1,000 adolescents (ages 12-19 years) from low and middle-class households in 10 selected neighbourhoods in the Greater Accra Region is being implemented by the University in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute.

The selected communities are Chorkor, Abelemkpe, South La, New Mamprobi, Achimota, Old Nungua, West Legon, Kokomlemle, New Town, and Nungua.

He said the study has two main components including a community-based component involving interviews with adolescents and their parents as well as laboratory sample collection, and diet analysis.

It also has a school-based component involving interviews with school heads to understand the school food environment with regard to food vending, food provisioning, school policy of food, food advertising and promotion on the school compound.