Meritorious achievement of EPHI in winning status of regional Center of Excellence

Food composition is a detailed breakdown of nutrients found in food items. This breakdown of nutrients includes vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and the like. Generally, describing food in terms of nutrients and energy as well as non-nutrients such as phytochemicals, bioactive food compounds, anti-nutrients, or toxic components is the broadest explanation of food composition.

Countries, in particular the developing ones, are advised and encouraged to compile and disseminate information on food composition to establish food labels, food-based dietary guidelines, nutrient requirements, or relationships between disease outcome and nutrient intakes, which consequently enable to determine nutrition adequacy and; the evidence regarding nutrition and health policy.

Ethiopia has already taken the initiative to develop its own food composition table through an authorized institute- “the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI)” since 1969. The Institute, commonly known as “the technical arm of the Federal Ministry of Health”, was established by the Council of Ministers with the major objective of conducting researches, based on the national public health research agenda, on priority health and nutrition problems, and generating, absorbing, and disseminating scientific and technological knowledge to improve public health.

The mission of EPHI is to improve the health of the general public of Ethiopia through undertaking research on priority health and nutrition issues for evidence-based information utilization and technology transfer; effective public health emergency management; establishing quality laboratory systems; and training public health researchers and practitioners for the best public health interventions.

The Public Health Institute has thus been disseminating valuable information on food composition. The effort being put forth by the institute in this regard has been acknowledged at the international level. The outcome of this recognition led EPHI to become a center of excellence for the Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI), a global effort to create a public database of the biochemical composition and function of the food we eat using the latest mass spectrometry technologies.

The Initiative was launched to meet its mission of building a global ecosystem and providing data tools to catalog the bio-molecular composition of the world’s food supply.

As part of the globe, Ethiopia needs to set its food composition table. This composition should be organized in such a manner it can be acceptable internationally. The Director General of EPHI, Messay Hailu (PhD), said that the Institute is among the pioneer institutions in Africa in the establishment of the Food Composition Table. The Institute has been exerting maximum efforts to generate quality and comprehensive national food composition data on foods consumed by the population to enable the designing of appropriate policies and the implementation of the needed interventions in agriculture, nutrition, and health.

Taking this into consideration, EPHI has updated the Food Composition Table four times, and the follow-up version will be published in early 2024, the Director General added.

Following the endeavors EPHI has shown, it has been awarded the status of Center of Excellence (CoE) by PTFI.

Gina Kennedy is Director of Research Translation and Impact and Principal Scientist with the alliance of Bioversity and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, commonly called CIAT (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical). As she stated once while she was in Addis Ababa for a global workshop, EPHI was one of the leaders for the region of East Africa in Foodomics – a new discipline that studies the food and nutrition domains through the application of advanced omics technologies – and it was also a pre-central location to organize the workshop.

Asked why EPHI was selected as CoE in East and Central Africa, Gina said that as the Institute meets all the criteria requested at the regional level, it has been awarded the honor. “It was a competition request for proposals in several laboratories throughout Africa. Their proposals were chosen after a thorough review of the proposals, a review of the facilities of the labs, an appraisal of the strength of the organization and service of the leaders of the region, as well as consideration of the ability of the center to do capacity development and training.” Gina said. As a result, the Institute was selected for the reason it was successful in meeting all the above stated criteria, according to Gina.

The Secretariat for the PTFI is a coalition of the American Heart Association (AHA) and Bioversity International (CIAT). It will primarily provide strategic and operational project management functions, facilitating a multi-stakeholder partnership. The Secretariat will support the Funders Consortium Board in developing and implementing strategic plans and priorities. It will lead strategic engagements and communication strategies, positioning PTFI as a truly global, diverse, multi-sectoral, and culturally or geographically representative group of collaborators, partners, and stakeholders.

EPHI organized in December 2023 in Addis Ababa a global workshop of all members of the PTFI-CoE countries in different parts of the world. EPHI – CoE Coordinator, Endale Amare (MD), said that EPHI hosted the first global gathering of all the CoEs drawn from Fiji, Australia, Mexico, Colombia, the Netherlands, Ethiopia, Ghana, Thailand, and the USA. The gathering was used as a platform to share experiences in the overall implementation of the PTFI’s mission, according to the Coordinator.

“The workshop was held with the objectives of exchanging information through in-person updates, problem solving for identified common issues, brainstorming on cross-center research synergies and outcomes, and exploring ideas to translate findings for different audiences,” Endale said.

EPHI has a vision of becoming a center of excellence in public health in Africa.



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