Mavra Ahmed, PhD

Department of Nutritional Sciences
University of Toronto

Digital Kids: Tackling unhealthy food marketing in a digital world

Moderated by: Dr. Mary L’Abbé

Purpose: With the increase in use of digital devices, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, to allow children to take part in education, connect with others and access entertainment, this timely symposium overviews the harmful impact of digital marketing for unhealthy food and beverage products, particularly for reaching children, affecting their attitudes, habits, dietary consumption, and health. Considering that these consequences could be lifelong, there is an urgent need to regulate food marketing in the era of big data and for countries to act to protect children from the digital marketing of unhealthy food products.

Learning Objectives:

  1. To describe the exposure of children to digital marketing for unhealthy food products 
  2. To illustrate the predatory and aggressive marketing tactics of food industries in digital marketing  
  3. To demonstrate the consequences of digital marketing for unhealthy food products on impacting children’s health and wellbeing 
  4. To facilitate a discussion on strategies, nationally and internationally, to address the marketing of unhealthy food products in the digital space
  5. To appraise nutrition-related public health policies aimed at creating supportive food environments and reducing chronic disease risk.

Speaker/Chair Bio:

Dr. Mavra Ahmed is a Research Associate at the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Joannah and Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition, University of Toronto. Mavra has experience in nutrition and food policy and clinical nutrition with strong expertise in research methods, with extensive collaborations with both private and public partners.

Mavra obtained her PhD, specializing in characterization of dietary intakes of Canadian Armed Forces and evaluation of novel technologies for assessing diets. She also holds a CIHR Fellowship in the Strategic Training Program in Public Health Policy. Mavra has expertise in dietary assessments, including computing intakes of energy, nutrients and other dietary constituents using food composition tables and in the use of the NCI method and SAS macros for analyzing national nutrition survey data.

Her current research focuses on exploring the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in evaluating the Canadian food environment, specifically the impact of the nutritional value of foods on health outcomes and in relation to help guide Canadian nutrition policy development, implementation and evaluation and in order to help Canadian consumers eat healthy and manage chronic diseases. She is also spearheading a major research initiative on school nutrition research that aims to identify best practices in relation to the design, delivery, and measurement of school food programs.