Professor  |  Director, Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition

Daniel Sellen

Departments of Anthropology and Nutritional Sciences


Medical Sciences Building
1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario Canada M5S 1A8
Research Interests
behavioural biology, community nutrition interventions, global health, nutritional anthropology, human ecology, paediatric nutrition
Appointment Status
Not accepting new students


  • Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellowship, University College London (1995-1997)
  • PhD, Theoretical Ecology and International Nutrition, University of California - Davis (1995)
  • MA, Anthropology, University of Michigan (1989)
  • BA (Honours), Zoology and Biological Anthropology, Oxford University (1987)

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Other Academic Appointments

Distinguished Professor, Anthropology & Global Health, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts & Science, University of Toronto

Director, Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition, University of Toronto

Senior Resident Scholar, Centre for Global Child Health, The Hospital for Sick Children

At a Glance

  • Dr. Sellen is Director of the Joannah & Brian Lawson for Child Nutrition in the Department of Nutritional Sciences.
  • Dr. Sellen’s research interests include:
    • effective innovations to protect, promote and support healthy child diets and family nutrition security;
    • implementation science to develop and test community nutrition interventions;
    • addressing mismatch between breastfeeding and complementary feeding recommendations and practice;
    • applied anthropology of young child care-giving practices, food insecurity and sustainable livelihoods; and
    • application of human ecology and evolutionary medical anthropology to improve global public health

About Dr. Daniel Sellen

Dr. Daniel Sellen directs the Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition at the University of Toronto. He specializes in design, testing and evaluation of large-scale programs to improve infant, child, adolescent and maternal nutrition security. Dr. Sellen has more than 20 years of international leadership in community-based, nutrition-sensitive research design, project management, analysis and reporting and of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) program innovation, integration, implementation and assessment. He was formerly inaugural Associate Dean of research at the Dalla School of Public Health.

Research Synopsis

Dr. Sellen’s research focus is implementation science to improve infant feeding practices and maternal and child nutrition security. His work also seeks to address the cause of mismatch between breastfeeding and complementary feeding recommendations and practice, and to understand the contemporary health implications of the evolution of human lactation biology (breastfeeding and complementary feeding).

Dr. Sellen leads a number of research projects globally. In Kenya, his team is testing new ways of supporting caregivers of infants to prevent poor growth — with all of its negative health consequences — by providing peer support and advice on breastfeeding to women using cellphones. In Toronto, he is working with Dr. Deborah O’Connor and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre to evaluate a breastfeeding and infant nutrition support program among mothers from traditionally marginalized communities. By providing connections between caregivers and sources of reliable information that make practical and economic sense, Dr. Sellen’s team helps to deliver nutrition knowledge and support and improve health outcomes for infants and young children.

National and International Committee Memberships (Current)

Advisory Board Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation (2017 – present)

Recent Publications

  1. Bădescu I, Watts DP, Curteanu C, Desruelle KJ, Sellen DW. Effects of infant age and sex, and maternal parity on the interaction of lactation with infant feeding development in chimpanzees. PLoS One. 2022 Aug 4;17(8):e0272139. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272139. PMID: 35925912; PMCID: PMC9352031.
  2. Mildon A, Francis J, Stewart S, Underhill B, Ng YM, Rousseau C, Di Ruggiero E, Dennis CL, Kiss A, O'Connor DL, Sellen DW. Associations between use of expressed human milk at 2 weeks postpartum and human milk feeding practices to 6 months: a prospective cohort study with vulnerable women in Toronto, Canada. BMJ Open. 2022 Jun 8;12(6):e055830. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-055830. PMID: 35676013; PMCID: PMC9185489.
  3. Norris SA, Draper CE, Prioreschi A, Smuts CM, Ware LJ, Dennis C, Awadalla P, Bassani D, Bhutta Z, Briollais L, Cameron DW, Chirwa T, Fallon B, Gray CM, Hamilton J, Jamison J, Jaspan H, Jenkins J, Kahn K, Kengne AP, Lambert EV, Levitt N, Martin MC, Ramsay M, Roth D, Scherer S, Sellen D, Slemming W, Sloboda D, Szyf M, Tollman S, Tomlinson M, Tough S, Matthews SG, Richter L, Lye S. Building knowledge, optimising physical and mental health and setting up healthier life trajectories in South African women (Bukhali): a preconception randomised control trial part of the Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative (HeLTI). BMJ Open. 2022 Apr 21;12(4):e059914. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-059914. PMID: 35450913; PMCID: PMC9024255.
  4. Laar AK, Addo P, Aryeetey R, Agyemang C, Zotor F, Asiki G, Rampalli KK, Amevinya GS, Tandoh A, Nanema S, Adjei AP, Laar ME, Mensah K, Laryea D, Sellen D, Vandevijvere S, Turner C, Osei-Kwasi H, Spires M, Blake C, Rowland D, Kadiyala S, Madzorera I, Diouf A, Covic N, Dzudzor IM, Annan R, Milani P, Nortey J, Bricas N, Mphumuzi S, Anchang KY, Jafri A, Dhall M, Lee A, Mackay S, Oti SO, Hofman K, Frongillo EA, Holdsworth M. Perspective: Food Environment Research Priorities for Africa: Lessons from the Africa Food Environment Research Network. Adv Nutr. 2022 Mar 7:nmac019. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmac019. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35254411.
  5. Francis J, Ismail S, Mildon A, Stewart S, Underhill B, Tarasuk V, Di Ruggiero E, Kiss A, Sellen DW, O'Connor DL. Characteristics of vulnerable women and their association with participation in a Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program site in Toronto, Canada. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2021 Dec;41(12):413-422. English, French. doi: 10.24095/hpcdp.41.12.02. PMID: 34910898.
  6. Bleecker L, Sauveplane-Stirling V, Di Ruggiero E, Sellen D. Evaluating the integration of strategic priorities within a complex research-for-development funding program. Eval Program Plann. 2021 Dec;89:102009. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2021.102009. Epub 2021 Sep 16. PMID: 34562669.
  7. Laar A, Kelly B, Holdsworth M, Quarpong W, Aryeetey R, Amevinya GS, Tandoh A, Agyemang C, Zotor F, Laar ME, Mensah K, Laryea D, Asiki G, Pradeilles R, Sellen D, L'Abbe MR, Vandevijvere S. Providing Measurement, Evaluation, Accountability, and Leadership Support (MEALS) for Non-communicable Diseases Prevention in Ghana: Project Implementation Protocol. Front Nutr. 2021 Aug 18;8:644320. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.644320. PMID: 34485355; PMCID: PMC8416277.
  8. Baxter JB, Wasan Y, Islam M, Cousens S, Soofi SB, Ahmed I, Sellen DW, Bhutta ZA. Dietary diversity and social determinants of nutrition among late adolescent girls in rural Pakistan. Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Aug 31:e13265. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13265. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34467621.
  9. Mildon A, Francis J, Stewart S, Underhill B, Ng YM, Rousseau C, Di Ruggiero E, Dennis CL, O'Connor DL, Sellen DW. High levels of breastmilk feeding despite a low rate of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months in a cohort of vulnerable women in Toronto, Canada. Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Aug 8:e13260. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13260. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34369075.
  10. Mildon A, Francis J, Stewart S, Underhill B, Ng YM, Richards E, Rousseau C, Di Ruggiero E, Dennis CL, O'Connor DL, Sellen DW. Correction to: Effect on breastfeeding practices of providing in-home lactation support to vulnerable women through the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program: protocol for a pre/post intervention study. Int Breastfeed J. 2021 Jul 29;16(1):57. doi: 10.1186/s13006-021-00404-1. Erratum for: Int Breastfeed J. 2021 Jul 2;16(1):49. PMID: 34325721; PMCID: PMC8320039.

In the News

Feeding Kids, Nourishing Minds: Researcher Mavra Ahmed studies school food programs in Canada. U of T News. April 29, 2022.

How effective are school food programs? U of T researchers launch nationwide study. U of T News. December 10, 2021.

What’s a ‘normal’ amount of time to breastfeed? The New York Times. April 15, 2020.

What was in prehistoric baby bottles? Now we know. National Geographic. September 25, 2019.