Benchmarking obesity policies in Australia

Project title: Benchmarking obesity prevention policies in Australia

  • UPDATE: Download the 2019 scorecards and priority recommendations by clicking on the Publications tab.
  • Click on the image to read the Findings Brief.

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 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 and territory, that clearly recognises good performance and highlights areas for further improvements, download the 2017 and 2019 progress reports on the Publications and presentations tab on this page
  • Identifying priority areas for action in Australia to improve food environments.

Relevance for practice

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.


Project start date: September 2015

Project end date: March 2017


Project lead:

Dr Gary Sacks, Deakin University

Project team:

  • Brydie Clarke, Deakin University
  • Ella Robinson, Deakin University
  • Jane Martin, Obesity Policy Coalition

Steering committee:

  • Professor Boyd Swinburn, Deakin University and University of Auckland
  • Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere, University of Auckland
  • Professor Amanda Lee, Sax Institute
  • Professor Anna Peeters, Deakin University
  • Professor Sharon Friel, Australian National University

This project was funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Ministry of Health, ACT Health and the HCF Research Foundation.


NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Government Health, HCF Research Foundation, ACT Government Health, hosted by Sax Institute


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 in 2017 and then again in 2019. Download reports for Australia and each state and territory below.


The scorecards and priority recommendations have been updated for each government in Australia in 2019. Download 2019 progress reports on policies for tackling obesity and creating healthier food environments below: 


Download the 2017 progress reports on policies for tackling obesity and creating healthier food environments below:



Prevention Centre News

March 2017: Landmark report sets out roadmap to tackle obesity and unhealthy diets



Read the media release

ABC, 2 April 2019: Patchy report card for states on obesity prevention efforts


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,

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

Four things Australia could do to tackle the obesity crisis

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,

Tackling obesity: parts of a 47-point plan for healthier Australians rejected by Federal MPs, Kids News (Herald Sun)

Just show some discipline’: Hanson and Hinch slam calls for junk food ban, Yahoo 7

How a junk food ban could be the key to a healthy nation, Ten Eyewitness News


ABC News 24

7 News 

9 News 

Ten News 

The Project 

SBS Twitter preview

SBS World News story

Sky News

The Today Show 

ABC News 24 – interview with Ari from the YMCA


Numerous radio interviews nationally


Impact case study

A policy roadmap to address unhealthy diet and obesity