Food environments globally and in Australia are dominated by unhealthy foods that are readily available and heavily promoted. These unhealthy food environments have contributed to unhealthy population diets and high levels of obesity that are now the biggest contributors to poor health.
The research in our ‘Policies for healthy food environments’ stream aims to improve the policy response to unhealthy diets, and understand how the development and implementation of policies to create healthier food environments can be enhanced.
We have a strong commitment to ensuring that our research findings are communicated widely and are used to inform policy and practice. We regularly contribute to World Health Organization (WHO) reports and consultations on obesity prevention. We also partner closely with the Obesity Policy Coalition and other public health organisations.
Our research program focuses on:
- monitoring and benchmarking the healthiness of food environments
- understanding the policies and processes that shape food environments
- building evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions for improving food environments
- mechanisms for increasing the accountability of governments and food companies.
A selection of our latest projects include:
- Australia’s Food Environment Dashboard: The first of its kind, Australia’s Food Environment Dashboard brings together the best-available and most up-to-date data to describe the healthiness of Australia’s food environments. The dashboard covers the key aspects of food environments, including data on food composition, food labelling, food prices and affordability, food promotion, food retail, and government and food company policies.
- Food Policy Index for Australia: This initiative benchmarks the obesity prevention policies of Australian state/territory and federal governments. The project implements the Health Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) tool that INFORMAS has developed to assess government policy across 14 action areas relating to food environments. A Progress Update to the original 2017 assessment was launched in 2019. The next assessment will be launched in 2022.
- Investing for Health: We have an ongoing research program that explores the potential role of institutional investors and asset managers in efforts to improve food systems and population diets. Read our latest findings briefs on ‘Investing for nutrition and obesity prevention‘ and ‘Investing for sustainable food systems‘, and see our academic publications related to nutrition and obesity, and investing for health.
- Inside Our Food Companies: Assessed the largest Australian food companies on their polices and commitments related to obesity prevention and nutrition, across three major food industry sectors: supermarkets, food and beverage manufacturers, and quick service restaurants. The project used the BIA-Obesity tool developed by INFORMAS to assess company policies across 6 key action areas, including marketing to children, product formulation and nutrition labelling. The objective was to highlight where Australian food companies were demonstrating progress in relation to obesity prevention and nutrition, and identify priority recommendations at both the company and sector level. This project was awarded the prestigious VicHealth ‘Research into Action’ Award in 2018.
- ACE-Obesity Policy: This project assessed the most cost-effective policy interventions for obesity prevention in Australia, including interventions across a range of sectors including food, physical activity and urban design.