Fighting Non-Communicable Diseases in Kenya: Why Food Policy Remains Untried

Summer Cook

Studenteropgave: Speciale


Nutrition-related non-communicable diseases were once seen as a plight of the affluent, but increasingly, they are representing the larger part of the burden of morbidity and mortality in lower income countries as well. Among the explanations for the epidemic are a number of structural changes in the food system. Regulatory and fiscal food policies that address these factors have been suggested by important organizations, but they are not being widely adopted. Kenya has enacted none of them, despite a significant NCD burden that is predicted to become crippling over the next decades if current trends continue. This thesis seeks to explain why preventative food policies have not been enacted within Kenya. The problem of regulating the food system tends to be examined from a Western perspective. Food industry influence and an emphasis of “personal freedom” are two of the obstacles that are commonly discussed. This thesis examines this problem from a low-income country's perspective. The research question is approached from four different angles. The first two are focused within Kenya's national environment – through the identification of belief systems among important actors followed by an examination of the conditions that have been shown to be necessary to policy change. The following two angles broaden the scope and include external actors and narratives as factors that influence policy outcomes. The thesis uses a mixed methods approach. Policy documents, narratives within news media, and interviews of policy makers are combined to present a broad analysis of the complex policy situation in Kenya. Advocacy Coalition Framework is utilized to help guide and organize the analysis of evidence. This thesis shows that there are supporters of preventative food policy in Kenya, but that they face many challenges. Important decision-makers within food policy are not engaged with the issue, and they adhere to policy beliefs that are in conflict with increasing government intervention. The situation is formidably complex due to the persistence of undernutrition, and supporters of NCD food policy possess inadequate resources and data to effectively persuade more powerful actors to put NCDs higher on the on the political agenda. International actors have not clearly supported NCD food policy and there are few national policies among other countries from which Kenya can draw a lesson. Narratives in the news media show a great deal of attention and a strong sense of urgency about the problem within Kenya, but there is little cohesion among the emphasized causes and preferred strategies.

UddannelserGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato17 okt. 2013
VejledereOlivier Rubin


  • Food Policy
  • Non-communicable Diseases
  • Kenya