What is REFINE?
REFINE was established in 2012 as an outcome of the Food Aid Quality Review. REFINE is a knowledge-sharing mechanism that aims to improve the effectiveness of food-supported interventions in emergency and non-emergency contexts. REFINE's ultimate goal is to improve the nutrition or health status of vulnerable populations worldwide.
REFINE catalogs the research activity surrounding food-supported interventions by:
- Following and documenting ongoing studies relevant to food aid policy and programming
- Collecting policy publications and empirical literature
- Defining research gaps
Overall, REFINE helps answer the question: “What does the evidence tell us are the best food aid products, programs, and processes to improve nutrition and health?” REFINE is not an advisory service and does not respond to individual queries about study design or new product development.
As of June 30, 2021, 84 clinical trials, 360 published studies, and 116 additional resources have been tracked, added to REFINE, and disseminated through Resource Reviews. Of the 84 clinical trials that have been tracked on REFINE, 17 are ongoing. Given the number and scope of resources within the REFINE repository, the platform can be used as a tool for research activities. The following publications have leveraged the REFINE platform:
- Caiafa, Kristine, Maria Wrabel, Devika Suri, Ye Shen, Shelley Walton, Beatrice Lorge Rogers, and Patrick Webb. “A review of research methods used to study specialised nutritious foods.” Field Exchange 62 (2020): 41.
- Thompson, Lauren, Audrey Karabayinga, Beatrice Rogers, and Patrick Webb. “The Potential Value-Added to USAID of Open Access Data on Food Assistance for Nutrition: An Analysis of Research Publications Archived on the REFINE Database.” (Report to USAID. Boston, MA: Tufts University, 2021.
- Wrabel, Maria, Kristine Caiafa, Beatrice Lorge Rogers, and Patrick Webb. “Food aid for nutrition: A landscape review of current research and implications for future studies.” Field Exchange 62 (2020): 38.
What are “food-supported interventions”?
Food-supported interventions are interventions that:
- use food aid products
- use foods that have been nutritionally enhanced
- study specific ingredients that are intended for use in food aid
- Facilitate information and resource sharing on innovations and research relevant to food-supported interventions that support better nutrition outcomes.
REFINE is a repository of ongoing research, published studies and other key documents relating to food-supported interventions. It categorizes information by searchable priority themes. The aim is to stimulate dialogue and forge linkages among relevant research initiatives.
- Encourage necessary research and help coordinate where appropriate.
A large number of researchable questions exist at a time when demand for evidence-based practice is growing. The need for greater rigor and innovation in research design is widely recognized. REFINE facilitates greater transparency in food aid research, promotes interaction among researchers working in this field, and helps to promptly disseminate research results.
- Help facilitate discussion and presentation of findings.
The REFINE platform serves as an active portal for sharing information on research designs, protocols, preliminary findings/working papers, and final publications. Periodic meetings of stakeholders may be convened to further collaborate on research proposals, discussion of analyses, or policy advocacy.
- Promote a focus for future research investments.
REFINE highlights priority knowledge gaps in the food aid research literature and encourages study designs and analytical approaches that generate data and results that are both high-caliber and have operational relevance.
A full description of the REFINE scope, workflow, and potential can be found in the report Research Engagement on Food Interventions for Nutritional Effectiveness: Maintaining and Expanding the REFINE Repository for Food Assistance Research.
REFINE's Search Criteria
REFINE tracks ongoing studies and collects relevant publications based on the following criteria:
- Condition: malnutrition OR undernutrition OR stunting OR stunted OR wasting OR wasted
- Intervention: supplement OR food OR RUF OR RUTF LNS OR “nutrition program”
REFINE includes resources based on the following criteria:
- Interventions: Those that use food assistance products, use foods that have been nutritionally enhanced, or study specific ingredients that are intended for use in food assistance.
- Study population: Restricted to those without chronic conditions that confound nutritional health (e.g., diabetes, HIV/AIDS, etc.)
- Outcome measures: Eligible studies report outcome measures including birth weight, weight gain, height gain, weight-for-age, height-for-age, weight-for-height/length, mid-upper arm circumference, lean body mass, recovery, mortality, default, nutritional intake, cognitive abilities, and product acceptability. Studies investigating the intergenerational effects of an intervention are considered if outcomes measures include wasted or stunted status of the participants, or body composition in addition to another measure of recovery.
REFINE's Resource Reviews
The REFINE Resource Review is a collection of materials that displays research related to food aid products and malnutrition. It is a quarterly report of resources that have been identified and added to the REFINE library and published studies.