In high-income countries, the prevalence of obesity follows a socioeconomic gradient – the lower the socioeconomic position the greater the risk of adverse weight gain and the greater the prevalence of obesity. Reducing socioeconomic inequalities in obesity should be considered a public health priority. A reduction of inequalities in obesity will not only improve the social fabric of society, but will also be required for maximum population health and economic benefits.

Universal health policies, which act across an entire population, regardless of risk, have great potential to reduce the population prevalence of obesity. However, such policies may also be a determinant of widening inequalities if they disproportionately benefit higher socioeconomic groups, who tend to have greater social and economic resources. To mitigate widening inequalities in obesity and associated health consequences it is essential that any population obesity prevention strategy reduce overall excess weight in the population and reduce the associated gradient.

The research in the ‘Equity in Obesity Prevention’ stream aims to inform and support the necessary policy response that will be required to reduce the socioeconomic gradient in unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and excess weight. With a strong focus on knowledge translation and exchange, the research from this stream aims to inform tangible changes in policy and practice, which provides everyone with the opportunity to make healthy diet and physical activity choices.

Our research program focuses on:

  • Building the evidence on the differential effectiveness of obesity prevention policies and programs according to socioeconomic position
  • Monitoring socioeconomic inequalities in obesity, obesity-related behaviours and health outcomes
  • Understanding the mechanisms and drivers for socioeconomic inequalities in obesity
  • Understanding the health and economic burdens associated with socioeconomic inequalities in obesity

A selection of our current projects include:

  • Real-world and lab-based experiments to understand the role of pricing policies on socioeconomic inequalities in diet
  • Time trends analyses of the prevalence of obesity according to socioeconomic position among children and adults
  • Epidemiological modelling and cost-effective analyses to:
    • estimate the impact of population health policies on socioeconomic inequalities in obesity and related health consequences
    • estimate the population health and economic consequences of inequalities in obesity
  • Systematic reviews and policy analyses to inform the evidence on the health equity impact of population obesity prevention policies
  • Building equity into the design and evaluation of systems based approaches to obesity prevention

Please contact Kathryn Backholer for more information about our policy research.