Dr Lindsay Jaacks

UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Chancellors Fellow Global Challenges

Address

Street

Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security
The University of Edinburgh
Easter Bush Campus
Midlothian

City
Post code
EH25 9RG

Availability

  • We always like hearing from people enthusiastic about contributing to research on healthy, sustainable food systems. If we have open positions, you will be able to find them on the University of Edinburgh's jobs / careers website.

    We are also open to supporting external postdoc fellowships. Examples include: Marie Curie Individual Fellowships (open ~April – September); Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowships (deadlines in September and March); Commonwealth Rutherford Fellowship (deadline ~December)

    PhD studentships are available for both UK/EU and international students. The application to these studentships generally opens between October – December.

Background

After studying Nutrition and Epidemiology, Lindsay joined the faculty at Harvard University as an Assistant Professor of Global Health, where she established and led a research team working on global noncommunicable diseases (NCD) and developed the obesity transition framework. While at Harvard, she also developed and taught field-based classes on NCDs in India and Nepal. This work motivated her to adjust course and re-focus on the underlying causes of disease.

 

Lindsay joined the University of Edinburgh in 2020 as a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security. Her current research projects broadly aim to advance understanding of the nexus between agriculture, nutrition, and health. She is especially interested in studying the effect of pesticides on human health and the health co-benefits of sustainable agriculture approaches such as organic. Her research also involves improving the measurement of food environments and leveraging citizen science for public health nutrition.

 

Since 2016, Lindsay has been a Visiting Professor at the Public Health Foundation of India.

Qualifications

Postdoc, Emory University

PhD, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Dual BS (Summa Cum Laude), Cornell University

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?

Yes

Project activity

Co-Benefits of Largescale Organic Farming on Human Health (BLOOM) The agriculture sector is the single-largest employer in India with approximately 40% of adults employed in agricultural work. In the 1960s, in order to reduce reliance on food aid, the Government of India promoted large-scale monocropping with hybrid seeds and the use of agrochemicals across the country. Whilst this Green Revolution has been credited for increases in yields of wheat and rice, agriculture in India is in crisis. Since 1995, over 250,000 farmers in India have committed suicide, many by ingestion of pesticides. Farmer debt from increasing input costs and decreasing returns has been cited as the underlying cause of this crisis.

It was in this context that Andhra Pradesh passed a pioneering government order known as ‘Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)’ in 2016, now formally known as, ‘Andhra Pradesh Community managed Natural Farming (APCNF).’ APCNF aims to reduce the cost of cultivation thus improving farmers’ livelihoods; enhance soil fertility; enhance yields; and build resilience within agriculture to climate change. The APCNF programme focuses on reducing chemical inputs and improving soil health, whilst also promoting crop diversity and the use of indigenous plant varieties. The programme aims to reach all farmers in Andhra Pradesh (~6 million) and stay engaged with them to achieve 100% chemical-free agriculture across the state by 2024. 

BLOOM is a cluster randomised controlled trial of APCNF in ~80 clusters in two districts with different agro-climatic zones (Kurnool [Scarce Rainfall Zone] and Visakhapatnam [North Coastal Zone and High Altitude Zone]). The study is supported by a grant from UKRI and is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, the Public Health Foundation of India (Delhi), Ross Lifescience (Pune), and Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS) (corporation for farmers’ empowerment), Government of Andhra Pradesh. 

We aim to begin baseline data collection during Kharif 2021 and will follow farmers for at least three years. The primary outcomes include: (1) urinary pesticides (non-specific biomarkers of exposure to organophosphates known as ‘DAPs [Dialkylphosphates]’), (2) dietary diversity, (3) crop yield, and (4) household income (from all sources). Secondary outcomes include: adult glycaemia, adult kidney function, adult self-reported symptoms (e.g., musculoskeletal pain, headache, respiratory symptoms, and dermatological symptoms), adult self-reported health-related quality of life, incidence of pesticide poisoning, and, in children, growth and cognitive development. 

Poshan Atlas Bhartiya Poshan Krishi Kosh is a collaborative effort led by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (Government of India), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and its India Research Center, the University of Edinburgh, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The technical team led by Dr. Lindsay Jaacks of University of Edinburgh/Harvard University, is developing, the first-ever Indian database to link comprehensive, detailed, district-level information on what foods are traditionally consumed and what crop varieties are currently grown, alongside key agricultural and socioeconomic variables to better-inform guidance on diversifying crops to promote dietary diversity and advance the goals of POSHAN Abhiyan. 

This user-friendly portal, a.k.a., Poshan Atlas, will allow stakeholders including policy-makers, program implementers, researchers, etc. to select a state, district or agro-ecological zone of interest and compare within that selection key agricultural, dietary, and ecological indicators and statistics. Key data sources include: Land Use Statistics, Agricultural Census, Input Survey, Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices, Soil Health Card, Fertilizer Use, Crop Estimation Surveys, Income, Expenditures, and Debt of Agricultural Households (NSSO), and Weather. 

The portal has a wide range of applications at the nexus between agriculture, food, and nutrition. These include, for example: development of crop diversification plans; management of natural resources and related infrastructure; budget allocation of sponsored schemes that impact agriculture, livelihoods, and nutrition; and generating feedback loops for policy convergence on agriculture and nutrition. Significant co-benefits of such efforts may include prevention of obesity and nutrition-related chronic diseases – through the promotion of course grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Reducing meat intake to mitigate climate change and improve health Red meat consumption is an important contributor to both greenhouse gas emissions and chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and some cancers. Interventions to reduce red meat consumption, especially in the United States where consumption levels are consistently above recommendations, is both a climate change and public health priority. Point-of-purchase policies, including taxation and warning labels, are increasingly popular policy levers and have been found to effectively reduce consumption of other unhealthy products including cigarettes and sugary drinks. However, it is unknown whether such policies could reduce red meat intake. Our research team aims to fill this gap.

This project is part of the Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet, Our Health programme and is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Our major goals are to: (1) Examine trends in meat consumption and identify the top meat-consuming subpopulations in the United States, (2) Design effective warning messages for reducing red meat intake in these subpopulations, (3) Evaluate whether these warnings and/or red meat taxes reduce purchases of red meat in an online grocery store, and (4) Quantify the impact of these warnings and taxes on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer incidence using a microsimulation model.

Quantifying the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Agriculture, Food Security, and Diet Quality in India In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of India imposed the largest lockdown in history: 1.3 billion people were required to shelter in place from 25 March to 8 June 2020. There is no doubt that this lockdown disproportionately affected the poor and daily wage earners, including rural farmers. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the low incomes of farmers were a critical issue in India, with the government setting a goal to double farmers’ income by 2022. A national survey conducted in 2016-17 found that the average monthly income of farming households stands at just 8931 INR (about £95), of which 35% comes from cultivation, 34% from wage earnings, and 8% from livestock. A shortfall in any of these sources of income could significantly affect these households. Moreover, an estimated 84% of food consumed by rural households (in value) is purchased from the market. Thus, if there are shortfalls in income whether it be from cultivation, wage earnings, or livestock, there are likely to be immediate and adverse impacts on food security and diet quality.

With these concerns in mind, we leveraged our existing networks in India to conduct phone interview surveys of 1,429 farmers across 12 states and 200 districts from 3 to 15 May 2020. Two follow-up surveys of these same farmers were conducted from 3 to 19 June and from 20 July to 12 August. Therefore, we have key data on how indicators of agricultural production, food security, and diet quality changed as the pandemic progressed. We will leverage these data to answer three specific research questions: (1) What role has crop diversity played in supporting food security and diet quality among farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic in India? (2) What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on monsoon season sowing in India? And (3) Does the receipt of aid, including cash transfers and extra food rations, protect farmers from food insecurity and poor diet quality during the COVID-19 pandemic in India? Answering these questions will be critical for preparing for the upcoming agricultural seasons, informing the targeted provision of emergency food rations to those most in need, and re-building a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable agri-food system.

This project is supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scottish Government Scottish Asia Partnerships Higher education Research Fund (SAPHIRE), and is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, the Public Health Foundation of India (Delhi), and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (Hyderabad). 

People and Jobs Nourished per Hectare: Co-production of a new food system metric. The metrics used to evaluate the performance of agriculture have not changed in over 50 years. Today, as we face unprecedented levels of obesity and an economic crisis due to COVID19, there is a pressing need to apply new metrics. This ESRC-funded Impact Acceleration project will involve the co-production of a new metric, ‘number of people and jobs nourished per hectare’, to support our partner organisation, Scotland The Bread, and other local SMEs in promoting Scottish organic wholegrain flour and bread. Funds will support interviews with farmers, millers, and bakers to understand the most important aspects of job satisfaction; participatory workshops to co-develop the metric with stakeholders; and a public launch event. Outputs will include a report on how to apply the metric for local businesses; a policy brief for Scottish Government; and a public web-based resource.

Inspiring a Food Revolution for People and Planet. The major goal of this Scottish Universities Insight Institute (SUII)-funded project is to collaboratively design recipes and a publicity campaign, culminating in a month-long event in which universities across Scotland adopt a locally adapted “planetary health meal plan.” More information can be found on the project website: https://phfoodrevolution.wixsite.com/website.

View all 44 publications on Research Explorer

  • Clarinda Brown, Senior Project Manager
  • Joe Kennedy, Postdoc

  • Lily Bliznashka, Postdoc

  • Georgina Bradley, Research Assistant

  • Divya Veluguri, PhD student
  • Dina Goodman, PhD student (Harvard)
  • Elena Dall'Agnese, Research Assistant

University of Edinburgh

  • Dr Alfy Gathorne-Hardy
  • Prof Michael Eddleston
  • Dr Peter Alexander
  • Prof Geraldine McNeill

 

National/international

  • Dr Dorairaj Prabhakaran, Public Health Foundation of India
  • Dr Poornima Prabhakaran, Public Health Foundation of India
  • Dr Aditi Roy, Public Health Foundation of India
  • Dr Sailesh Mohan, Public Health Foundation of India and Centre for Chronic Disease Control
  • Dr Nikhil Srinivasapura Venkateshmurthy, Public Health Foundation of India and Centre for Chronic Disease Control
  • Dr Anjali Rao, Public Health Foundation of India
  • Dr Manu Mathur, Public Health Foundation of India
  • Dr Lindsey Taillie, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Dr Ananya Awasthi, Harvard University
  • Dr Jesse Bump, Harvard University
  • Dr Anna Grummon, Harvard University
  • Abhishek Jain, Council on Energy, Environment and Water
  • Dr Abhinav Vaidya, Kathmandu Medical College
  • Dr Ahmed Raza, Food and Agriculture Organization
  • Dr Peter Craig, University of Glasgow
  • Prof Dana Boyd Barr, Emory University