MJ-school associate professor receives research grant for work in unhealthy food consumption in Chile

UNC School of Media and Journalism Associate Professor Francesca Dillman Carpentier received one of six faculty research grants for her work in unhealthy food consumption in Chile. The UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases awarded The Explorations in Global Health grants to foster the development of research partnerships and projects in global health.

The grants are made to UNC faculty for either international travel or to bring international colleagues to campus to establish or maintain research relationships (with the aim of applying for external funding), or to undertake small-scale, discrete research projects with international collaborators. This year, the IGHID is supporting six diverse projects in Nicaragua, Liberia, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Chile and Brazil.

Carpentier's research focuses on the impacts in Chile of restrictive labeling and marketing regulations on unhealthy food consumption. Chile’s continued economic growth has been accompanied by increased expenditures on ultra-processed food and other food high in refined sugar, unhealthy saturated fats, added salt, and low amounts of fiber; these types of foods are linked to increased obesity across gender and age groups. Chile also leads the globe in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Unlike other Latin American countries, Chile is taking very different regulatory measures beyond introducing SSB or other food/beverage taxes to reduce unhealthy food consumption. The situation in Chile provides a unique opportunity to provide the first evaluation of an SSB tax in addition to an increasingly restrictive labeling and marketing regulation on key nutrients.

Through the grant, Carpentier plans to travel to Santiago, Chile, to lend expertise in shaping the data collection and analysis of food marketing on television, online and in supermarkets and, in doing so, provide a template for future documentation of marketing appeals targeting children. Carpentier hopes this rubric can be applied to new countries considering similar food marketing restrictions. She also believes combining the strengths of UNC’s programs in media and nutrition, the brain trust and resources of the Carolina Population Center and Chile’s Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology promises to facilitate the building of a strong, cross-institutionally trained team of new researchers that will have a major impact in Latin America.