Validity of the Food Insecurity Experience Scale for Use in Sub-Saharan Africa and Characteristics of Food-Insecure Individuals
Abstract, Current Developments in Nutrition, 2018
The Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) is a UN FAO—Voices of the Hungry project (FAO-VoH) metric of food insecurity (FI). The FAO-VoH tested the psychometric properties of FIES with the use of global 2014 Gallup World Poll (GWP) data. However, similarities in its psychometric structure in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to allow aggregation of SSA results were untested.
We aimed to 1) assess the validity of FIES for use in SSA, 2) determine the prevalence of FI by country, age group, and gender, and 3) examine the sociodemographic and economic characteristics of individuals with FI.
The Rasch modeling procedure was applied to data collected by GWP in 2014 and 2015 on 57,792 respondents aged ≥19 y in SSA.
FIES largely met the Rasch model assumptions of equal discrimination and conditional independence. However, 34.3% of countries had high outfits (≥2.0) for the item “went without eating for a whole day.” Four countries had significant correlations for the items “were hungry but did not eat” and “ran out of food.” The overall prevalence of severe FI (SFI) was 36.4%, ranging from 6.0% in Mauritius to 87.3% in South Sudan. Older adults were at significantly higher risk of SFI than younger adults (38.6% and 35.8%, respectively, P < 0.0001), and women more than men (37.3% and 35.4%, respectively, P < 0.0001). Higher proportions of individuals with SFI were rural residents, less educated, lower income, unemployed, and lived in households with many children under the age of 15 y.
FIES has acceptable levels of internal validity for use in SSA. However, the item “went without eating for a whole day” may need cognitive testing in a few SSA countries. For countries with correlated items, 1 of the items may be excluded.