Using evidence to improve population diets: Australia’s food dashboard



TYPE Prevention Centre News

Launched in June 2021, the Dashboard tracks the key drivers of high obesity rates in Australia and brings together the most up‑to‑date data about the healthiness of Australia’s food environments. It includes data on the types of food available and their nutritional quality; the price of different foods and diets; and the way food is marketed through advertising and packaging.

The resource will be an important tool for policy, research and advocacy, as it provides a clear picture of all the ways our environment drives us to consume too much of the wrong types of foods. For example, the Dashboard rates all the major supermarkets as unhealthy for the way they promote, discount and display unhealthy foods, such as chocolates, chips and sugary drinks.

The Dashboard was funded by the Medical Research Future Fund through the Prevention Centre, which has been administered by the Sax Institute since the Centre’s inception in 2013. The Dashboard was developed under the leadership of Associate Professor Gary Sacks and INFORMAS (International Network for Food and Obesity/Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) Research, Monitoring and Action Support).

Associate Professor Sacks, whose research has been included as part of The Lancet Commission on Obesity, says the Dashboard shows the need for much stronger policy action from all levels of government in Australia to create healthier food environments. “At Australian supermarkets, it is almost impossible to pay for groceries without being exposed to unhealthy food and drinks,’ said Associate Professor Sacks. “Unhealthy products are ‘on special’ almost twice as often as healthy foods, and the discounts on unhealthy foods are much larger than the discounts on healthier foods.”

Australia’s Food Environment Dashboard was developed in partnership with the Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE), a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention in Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation, and the Obesity Policy Coalition.

The Prevention Centre was joined by more than 300 stakeholders for the virtual launch of the Dashboard, and in the first week the site attracted more than 3000 unique users. Use of the site continues to grow and will provide an important new way for mobilising food and nutrition evidence in the coming years.

This story appeared in the 2020-21 Sax Institute Annual Report.