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Call for experts to develop WHO food-based dietary guidelines – World Health Organization (WHO)

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently seeking experts to develop guidelines on optimal intake of animal source foods and plant food alternatives. This notice provides information about the work to be completed and application process. 

Background

Diet plays a critical role in shaping the health and well-being of both individuals and populations.  Healthy, safe diets help to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer, and foodborne diseases caused by physical, chemical or biological hazards. A topic of continued debate in the context of healthy diets is the optimal proportion of animal source foods. Animal source foods are a good source of highly bioavailable protein and key vitamins and minerals, but their consumption has been linked to increased risk of certain diet-related NCDs. Consumption of plant foods has been linked to decreased risk of diet-related NCDs but diets consisting almost exclusively of plant foods may increase risk of nutrient deficiencies. The optimal intake of animal source foods in the context of plant food alternatives is a key feature of healthy diets that needs to be explored via innovative, evidence-informed approaches.

WHO supports Member States in their efforts to promote healthier, safer and more sustainable diets as a priority through a variety of actions, including the recent release of several relevant guidelines on macronutrient intake and policy actions, activities promoting healthy diets in schools, sporting events and other venues, and provision of scientific advice to the Codex Alimentarius through joint FAO/WHO programs such as the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and Joint Expert Meetings on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA). Building off of this work, and to address the growing interest in food-based guidance, WHO is planning much needed global guidance on animal source foods and plant food alternatives which will complement existing WHO guidance on macronutrient intake.

The guidelines will be developed following the WHO guideline development process (https://www.who.int/groups/guidelines-review-committee) which includes the convening of a multidisciplinary group of experts from all regions of the globe to serve on the guideline development group (GDG). The GDG will produce a guideline containing recommendations and contextual information to aid policy makers in relevant decision-making. The GDG’s conclusions and recommendations will be based on the evidence gathered and reviewed, as well as models developed by a risk-benefit assessment technical group (RBAG). 

WHO is therefore issuing a call for experts to establish two groups of experts as described above, to contribute to the development of guidelines on optimal intake of animal source foods and plant food alternatives as described below.

Information for candidates

Qualifications

Successful candidates should meet most or all of the following qualifications:

  • An advanced degree and demonstrated expertise in one or more subject matter areas as listed below
  • Recent, relevant scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals
  • Leadership, or invited participation, in national or international scientific bodies, committees and other expert advisory bodies pertinent to the scope of this work
  • Ability to contribute to the preparation of scientific documents and to work in an international environment with scientists from various disciplines
  • Good knowledge of the English language, both written and oral is essential

Subject matter expertise needed

  • Nutrition science, with a focus on the effects of diet on risk of noncommunicable disease and other relevant health outcomes
  • Food safety risk assessment methodology, including microbiological and chemical contaminants
  • Epidemiology (including assessment of RCTs, prospective observational studies, etc.) and relevant methods of dietary and exposure assessment
  • Evidence review methodologies (e.g. expertise in evidence assessment and synthesis, developing guidelines, GRADE methodology, undertaking systematic reviews)
  • Risk-benefit assessment methodology, particularly as it applies to foods

Expert activities

Experts will contribute to the following activities as part of the guideline development process:

GDG members

  • Provide input into the scope of the guidelines
  • Develop key questions (in PICO format) that will guide evidence reviews
  • Prioritize important outcomes for decision-making and develop recommendations
  • Examine and interpret the evidence, with explicit consideration of the overall balance of risks and benefits as developed by the RBA expert group
  • Formulate recommendations taking into account benefits, harms, values and preferences, feasibility, equity, acceptability, resource requirements, and other factors, as appropriate
  • Identify research gaps
  • Review the final guideline document

RBA expert group members

  • Gather and evaluate dietary intake and food composition and contamination data
  • Evaluate dietary intake and food composition and contamination available data, review existing sources of evidence covering the areas of food nutrition, microbiology and toxicology associated with the considered food consumption and potential health outcomes
  • Develop an approach to synthesize the scientific evidence and utilize that strategy to develop its findings and conclusions (quantitative and/or qualitative) about associations between considered food consumption and positive (benefit) or negative (risk) health outcomes
  • Develop quantitative risk-benefit assessment models to enable the analysis and comparison of relevant dietary scenarios
  • Evaluate the quality and uncertainty of a risk-benefit assessment and provide scientific information and principles that can serve as a foundation to evaluate confidence in the potential conclusions of a risk-benefit assessment
  • Communicate the results of the risk-benefit assessment to the GDG, and guiding them in its interpretation

Submitting an application

The process for submitting an application is the same for both groups. Interested parties should submit the following documents via the submission form at https://extranet.who.int/dataformv3/615842

  1. Curriculum vitae, including
    • detailed education background;
    • relevant work experience; and
    • list of peer-reviewed publications.
  2. Completed Declaration of Interests (DOI) form
  3. Signed Confidentiality Undertaking

Process for selection of experts

  • Each curriculum vitae will be reviewed to assess whether the applicant meets the qualifications and has relevant expertise in the subject matter areas listed above.
  • Declaration of Interest forms will be reviewed. Any potential or perceived conflicts of interest disclosed in the Declaration of Interests form will be considered in the selection process, with input from the WHO Department of Compliance, Risk Management and Ethics as needed.
  • In addition to subject matter expertise, the selection of experts will also take into consideration diversity and complementarities of expertise, a balance of genders and balanced representation from WHO geographic regions including developing and developed countries.
  • Representatives of commercial organizations may not serve as experts. They may be invited to attend part of the meeting as external resource persons, if required, but may not be present at the meeting when recommendations are being formulated.

Selected experts will be invited to contribute only in their individual capacity and will not represent their government, institution or other organizations. The names and brief biographies of selected experts will be published on the WHO website.

Completing this work is expected to take 2-3 years from inception to recommendations. At least 2-3 face-to-face meetings are planned with the remaining work to be carried out via virtual meetings. All meetings will be held in English only and all documents will be prepared and provided in English. Travel and per diem to attend the face-to-face meetings will be covered by WHO. No honoraria or other forms of remuneration will be provided.

Documents must be submitted by 28 April 2024 to be eligible for consideration. Documents can be submitted through the online submission form at https://extranet.who.int/dataformv3/615842. Detailed instructions for submitting documents are provided in the online form.

Questions regarding the call for experts should be addressed to [email protected].

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