Dietary surveys in low-income countries generally rely on interviewer-administered recalls using paper questionnaires. This approach is cumbersome, error-prone, and cost- and time-prohibitive, resulting in a dearth of dietary information in many low-income countries (LIC). As part of a multi-year effort to scale up research architecture for dietary assessment in LICs, this study investigates the suitability of emerging innovative dietary assessment technologies for use in these settings.
Pre-defined search terms identified technologies from peer-reviewed and recent gray literature, using PubMed and Google. Android apps were searched through the Google Play store. For each technology, available information was extracted about the a) primary purpose, b) terminal type, c) type of method, d) data input type, e) data processing, f) data output type and content, g) mode of administration, h) evidence of validity, i) resource requirements, j) appropriateness for LICs, and k) additional strengths and weaknesses.
Five categories of innovative devices were identified, in addition to the more standard computer-based platforms used in upper income countries: 1) Android applications, 2) camera-enabled devices, 3) wearable devices, 4) scale-based devices, and 5) handheld devices. None of these emergent technologies met all of the criteria for use in large-scale surveys in LICs. Many are still under development and require further assessment of their scientific validity and feasibility for population studies.
The five types of innovative technologies reviewed are not ready for use in LIC contexts as standalone dietary assessment tools, however certain features could be integrated into a computer-based dietary assessment tool built for LIC use.This research was conducted as part of the International Dietary Data Expansion (INDDEX) Project, which is implemented by Tufts University’s Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.