Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Health Promotion, Education and Behavior


The Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health

First Advisor

Edward A. Frongillo


Presidential transitions are uncertain periods in which relationships among power, accountability, and electoral support of a democratic process do not hold. Transitions challenge collaboration towards implementing policies contributing to food and nutrition security (FNSP). Sustaining these policies during transitions is critical for reaching long-term goals. Knowledge gaps remain on how to perform strategic multisectoral work during transitions to maximize FNSP sustainability.

This study aimed to examine what determines FNSP sustainability during presidential transitions and responded to the questions: How do policy actors define sustainability? What are the mechanisms determining policy sustainability? What are the implications of terminal logic behavior (TLB) and strategic defection (SD) for sustainability?

A constructivist grounded-theory approach with a retrospective design was used for a case study in Guatemala. Purposeful criteria were used to recruit 52 policy actors from all sectors and levels, elected and appointed that had contributed to implementing the FNSP adopted since 2006. Data from semi-structured interviews were analyzed using open, axial, and selective coding. Content analysis of news, speeches, and documents revealed emerging themes for verifying results from interviews.

Study participants defined sustainability by describing drivers like attitudes, social norms, transferred capacities, shared commitment, resilience, ownership, empowerment, livelihood, self-functioning, and coherence. They also defined sustainability by describing long-term processes like accumulating, adding up, maintaining, and reaching. Data revealed 24 forces determining sustainability during transitions: The forces for sustaining FNSP are Backed up, Beneficial, Championed, Importance, Institutionally sound, Owned, Sensitive, Shared, Steady resources, Strategic, Transition effect, and Trusted; the forces for not sustaining FNSP are Antagonistic underlying structure, Campaigning, Dysfunctional transition, Fractioned, Haphazard, Insensitive, Irrelevant, Misrepresentation, Neglected, Rivalry, Unsound institutions, and Unsteady resources.

Governmental TLB and SD that were relevant to sustainability occurred through individual, institutional, and political mechanisms with consequences of slowdown of implementation, dysfunctional collaboration, inefficient use of resources, benefits not reaching targeted groups, and loss of momentum.

These results complement existing knowledge on how to perform multisectorally for implementing FNSP. Informed strategies that maximize sustainability during transitions will potentiate the reach of long-term goals to reduce food and nutrition insecurity, and to advance equal human development.