A systematic policy approach to changing the food system and physical activity environments to prevent obesity

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As obesity prevention becomes an increasing health priority in many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, the challenge that governments are now facing is how to adopt a systematic policy approach to increase healthy eating and regular physical activity. This article sets out a structure for systematically identifying areas for obesity prevention policy action across the food system and full range of physical activity environments. Areas amenable to policy intervention can be systematically identified by considering policy opportunities for each level of governance (local, state, national, international and organisational) in each sector of the food system (primary production, food processing, distribution, marketing, retail, catering and food service) and each sector that influences physical activity environments (infrastructure and planning, education, employment, transport, sport and recreation). Analysis grids are used to illustrate, in a structured fashion, the broad array of areas amenable to legal and regulatory intervention across all levels of governance and all relevant sectors. In the Australian context, potential regulatory policy intervention areas are widespread throughout the food system, e.g., land-use zoning (primary production within local government), food safety (food processing within state government), food labelling (retail within national government). Policy areas for influencing physical activity are predominantly local and state government responsibilities including, for example, walking and cycling environments (infrastructure and planning sector) and physical activity education in schools (education sector). The analysis structure presented in this article provides a tool to systematically identify policy gaps, barriers and opportunities for obesity prevention, as part of the process of developing and implementing a comprehensive obesity prevention strategy. It also serves to highlight the need for a coordinated approach to policy development and implementation across all levels of government in order to ensure complementary policy action. © 2008 Sacks et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.




Sacks, G., Swinburn, B. A., & Lawrence, M. A. (2008, June 5). A systematic policy approach to changing the food system and physical activity environments to prevent obesity. Australia and New Zealand Health Policy. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-8462-5-13

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