Exploring the drivers of malnutrition in West Africa from health and social science perspectives: A comparative methodological review

West Africa has a high burden of malnutrition and the drivers are often complex, highly context-specific, and cut across individual, social, political and environmental domains. Public health research most often considers immediate individual health and diet drivers, at the expense of wider considerations that may fall outside of a health agenda. The objective of this systematic mapping review is to map the broad drivers of malnutrition in West Africa, from public health and social science perspectives, and to evaluate the additional value of an interdisciplinary approach. Evidence was gathered from one public health (MEDLINE) and one social science (International Bibliography of Social Science) database using a detailed search syntax tailored to each disciplinary configuration. Literature was screened against pre-determined eligibility criteria and extracted from abstracts. Studies published in English or French between January 2010 and April 2018 were considered for inclusion. Driver categories (immediate, underlying and basic drivers) were coded against the UNICEF conceptual framework of malnutrition. A total of 358 studies were included; 237 were retrieved from the public health database and 124 from the social science database, 3 studies were included in both. The public health and social science literature document different drivers, with MEDLINE most often reporting immediate drivers of malnutrition and the International Bibliography of Social Science database reporting underlying and basic drivers. The combined literature offers more balanced representation across categories. An interdisciplinary approach proved successful in achieving complementarity in search results while upholding rigorous methods. We recommend that interdisciplinary approaches are utilised to bridge recognised gaps between defined disciplines.