On the Road to Better Health? Impacts of New Market Access on Food Security, Nutrition, and Well-Being in Nepal, Himalaya, by Michelle Grocke
Grocke, Michelle. 2016. On the Road to Better Health? Impacts of New Market Access on Food Security, Nutrition, and Well-Being in Nepal, Himalaya. University of Montana, Missoula, MT. https://usu.academia.edu/MichelleGrocke.
The first road to be built into Humla, Nepal has connected this once-remote Himalayan region to a market in China. This dissertation research assesses the impacts of this road on villagers’ food security, diet and nutrition, and subjective well-being, and investigates the link between objective and subjective health outcomes. The primary aim of this study is to decipher whether villagers’ ‘proximity to road’ is the strongest predictor of the aforementioned health outcomes, or whether other sociocultural and economic variables play a more significant role. A mixed-methods approach and a case-control ethnographic research design were implemented in order to investigate this question.
Results from the food security questionnaire indicate that due to easy accessibility and low costs, villagers now supplement their agricultural yields with enriched, processed foods obtained via the road. Although villagers perceive their current food security as being significantly higher than in years past, results indicate that food security levels do not always positively correlate with either ‘proximity to road’ or the harvest season. Nutrient composition analysis indicates that differences in both livelihood tasks and prestige ascription by gender and age yield a high variability in both dietary patterns and nutritional outcomes. These differences are also reflected in the anthropometric data, which show that while a portion of the study population is ‘underweight’, another portion is simultaneously ‘overweight’. Villagers’ subjective well-being, in addition to being defined differently from village to village, has a higher correlation with human capital levels and socioeconomic status than with ‘proximity to road’.
This research illuminates the complexity involved with determining whether the introduction of a road will manifest in positive health outcomes. Using the new road in Humla District, Nepal, as a case study, this research takes advantage of a unique opportunity to study human dietary shifts as they are in the process of occurring. By assessing villagers’ decision-making patterns regarding their food consumption, the overall aim of this study is to gain an in-depth understanding of the dietary sea change that is leaving its mark on the quality of life across the globe.