Oxford Brookes partners in nutrition initiative to improve prisoners' health and behaviour

A prison corridor
The inside of a prison. Photo credited to Pexels.com

A new partnership spearheaded by Oxford Brookes University, Think Through Nutrition and HM Prison and Probation Service is set to target the link between nutrition and behaviour.

The collaboration will reach an estimated 187,000 people during the initial three year period and influence a further 2.8 million in the following five years. 

Think Through Nutrition is a charity committed to unlocking the profound connection between nutrition, brain health, and behaviour,  addressing the rising problem of mental health and behavioural issues linked to poor diets.  

Dr Jonathan Tammam, Director of the Oxford Brookes Centre for Nutrition and Health, which conducts world leading research to help improve the health and well-being of the global population, is leading the project.

Dr Tammam said: “We are looking at the health of prisoners and improving the diet of people in prisons. A better diet may improve aggression levels and physical health. This project will help us fill gaps in prisoners’ knowledge and gather valuable evidence on how this can influence behaviour change.

“While prisoners typically have a choice of meals, there are growing concerns regarding their nutritional balance.  

“We’ll be partnering with Think Through Nutrition to launch and evaluate the Learn About Nutrition and Health (LANAH) programme, which aims to help prisons provide inmates with a healthier, more balanced diet.”

Tahani Saridar, CEO of Think Through Nutrition, said: “Our mutual vision with Oxford Brookes University is to equip prisoners with the requisite nutritional knowledge, demystify common misconceptions, and help them make informed food choices.”

A pivotal component of the initiative will introduce a Red-Amber-Green (RAG) rated menu system in prisons. This strategy is intended not merely to alter the dietary choices of prisoners but to instil a deeper appreciation of the health benefits linked to the right nutrition.

Dr Shelly Coe, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at Oxford Brookes and co-lead on the project, said: “We’ll pilot this in four prisons to start with before it’s rolled out across the UK. 

The programme will also use modern technology. Participants will use electronic tablets to access a newly developed online resource where they can improve their knowledge and behaviours around food. 

Dr Coe added: “We want to see if, as a result of using our new platform, inmates’ knowledge around healthy eating improves. We will be looking at whether their diet subsequently improves, and as a result their behaviour and wellbeing improves.”  

The full-scale implementation of the new digital education tool is expected to take place over the next decade. 

This project is one of Oxford Brookes University’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.  Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are a collaboration between a business and a university, employing a graduate associate in order to solve a business challenge or work on an innovative idea to help the business or organisation grow.