Assessing the social validity of a brief dietary survey for Sri Lankan adults with a focus on gender: a qualitative study

Jessica Renzella, Santhushya Fernando, Buwaneka Kalupahana, Mike Rayner, Peter Scarborough, Nick Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: As the World Health Organization urges countries to strengthen their noncommunicable disease monitoring and surveillance activities, setting-specific innovations are emerging. Diet – a key, modifiable risk factor for chronic diseases – is particularly challenging to capture reliably. By socially validating self-report dietary survey tools, we may be able to increase the accuracy and representativeness of data for improved population health outcomes. The purpose of this study was to explore the factors that impact Sri Lankan Brief Dietary Survey (a newly developed tool) and 24-h Dietary Recall participation, engagement, and social validity among Sri Lankan adults. Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 93 participants (61 women and 32 men) in three Sri Lankan districts (Colombo, Kalutara, and Trincomalee). Interview data were analysed thematically and are presented as non-hierarchical thematic networks. Results: Participants identified a number of factors that influenced their survey participation and engagement. These included the time of day interviews occur, recall ease, level of commitment required, perceived survey value, emotional response to surveys, and interviewer positionality. Many of these factors were gendered, however, both female and male participants expressed a preference for engaging with socially valid research that they felt justified their personal investment in data collection. When explicitly asked to share ideas about how to improve the surveys, many participants opted not to provide suggestions as they felt they lacked the appropriate expertise. Conclusions: Our findings have implications for the accuracy and equity of dietary surveillance activities, and ultimately the appropriateness and effectiveness of programmes and policies informed by these data. Only through understanding how and why the target population engages with dietary research can we develop socially valid methods that assess and address the dietary risks of individuals and groups that are underrepresented by current conventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number79
JournalBMC Nutrition
Issue number1
Early online date22 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021


  • Adults
  • Diet
  • Gender
  • Noncommunicable diseases
  • Qualitative
  • Social validity
  • Sri Lanka
  • Survey
  • User experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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