The development and implementation of recommended policies to address obesity and improve population diets has been slow in Australia and globally.
This 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 to improve food environments.
Benchmarking obesity prevention policies in AustraliaProject title
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.
News and media
World Obesity Day – Everybody needs to actNews Category: Prevention Centre NewsDate
Big Appetite for Food DashboardNews Category: Prevention Centre NewsDate
Focus on the food system not the individual, experts urgeNews Category: Prevention Centre NewsDate
Landmark report sets out ambitious roadmap to tackle obesity and unhealthy dietsNews Category: Media releasesDate
Other news and media
Read the media release
ABC, 2 April 2019: Patchy report card for states on obesity prevention efforts
National media launch, February 20, 2017.
- 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
- 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, news.com.au
- 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
- Vandevijvere S, Barquera S, Caceres G, Corvalan C, Karupaiah T. An 11‐country study to benchmark the implementation of recommended nutrition policies by national governments using the Healthy Food Environment Policy Index, 2015‐2018. Obesity Review. Revised Nov 2019;20:S2:57-66. Doi: 10.1111/obr.12819