Benchmarking obesity policies in Australia
Project title: Benchmarking obesity prevention policies in Australia
Start date: September 2015
End date: March 2017
What is the issue?
Unhealthy diets and obesity are among the biggest contributors to poor health in Australia. Efforts to address obesity and improve population diets need a comprehensive response, and there is broad consensus on the general areas for action in this area.
However, the development and implementation of recommended policies has been slow in Australia and globally. While there has been increased focus on increasing accountability for taking action to address the problem, including through rigorous monitoring and benchmarking of performance against targets, Australia’s performance in obesity prevention is not currently systematically monitored.
INFORMAS (International Network for Food and Obesity/NCDs Research, Monitoring and Action Support) is an international network of researchers and public health organisations that aims to monitor and benchmark public and private sector actions to create healthy food environments and reduce obesity and non-communicable diseases globally.
INFORMAS has developed the Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) to assess government policy across 14 action areas related to food environments. The tool comprises a ‘policy’ component with seven domains each related to specific aspects of food environments that have been shown to have an important impact on population diets, and an ‘infrastructure support’ component with six domains based on the World Health Organization (WHO) building blocks for strengthening health systems.
How did the project address the issue?
This project implemented the Food-EPI in Australia to benchmark the diet-related aspects of obesity prevention policies of Australia and compare it to international best practice. The policies of each State and Territory as well as the Federal Government were assessed.
The project also explored the impact of conducting the Food-EPI on:
- Civil society groups involved in the process, including knowledge of participants, professional networks, relationships with government and other stakeholders
- Government, including knowledge of government officials, relationships within government and with external stakeholders, impact on policy.
As part of INFORMAS, the Food-EPI data from this project were added to data collected in other countries to form a database of policy action worldwide. This database will ultimately be used to compare policy implementation across countries and over time.
What were the expected outcomes?
The main aim of the project was to increase the accountability of Australian governments for their role in preventing obesity and diet-related chronic diseases. This was achieved by:
- Bringing together the public health community to assess the extent of implementation of globally recommended policies for creating healthy food environments in Australia
- Creating a report card of Australian performance, by State, that clearly recognises good performance and highlights areas for further improvements
- Identifying priority areas for action in Australia to improve food environments.
- Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Global Burden of Disease Country Profile Australia. 2013
- World Health Organization. Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases 2013-2020. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2013.
- Swinburn B, Kraak V, Rutter H, Vandevijvere S, Lobstein T, Sacks G, Gomes F, et al. Strengthening accountability systems to create healthy food environments and reduce global obesity. Lancet 2015, published online 18 February.
Updated November 2016
Dr Gary Sacks, Deakin University
- Brydie Clarke, Deakin University
- Ella Robinson, Deakin University
- Jane Martin, Obesity Policy Coalition
The project directly assessed the degree to which policies in Australia are meeting best practice guidelines for improving food environments, and identified priority areas for action in Australia to improve food environments.
Scorecards and priority recommendations have been produced for each government in Australia
Final results are available here.
As part of the project, the extent to which each jurisdiction in Australia is implementing globally recommended policies was assessed, and priority actions for each government identified. Download the full report for Australia.
Access reports for the Federal Government and each State and Territory here.
Prevention Centre News: Landmark report sets out roadmap to tackle obesity and unhealthy diets
National media launch, February 20, 2017.
Read the media release
- More than 60 online media reports
- More than 130 print and broadcast stories
- The reports downloaded more than 500 times from the website, foodpolicyindex.org.au
A sample of the media coverage is listed below.
Print and online
The plan to beat Australia’s obesity epidemic, the Daily Telegraph
News Corp media including the Herald Sun, Adelaide Advertiser, Courier Mail, West Australian, Northern Territory News, Geelong Advertiser, Townsville Bulletin
National strategy is needed to curb worsening obesity crisis, Courier Mail (editorial)
Limit availability of unhealthy food, study urges ACT, Canberra Times
Push to ban junk food at schools, news.com.au
Tackling obesity: parts of a 47-point plan for healthier Australians rejected by Federal MPs, Kids News (Herald Sun)
How a junk food ban could be the key to a healthy nation, Ten Eyewitness News
ABC News 24 – interview with Ari from the YMCA
Numerous radio interviews nationally