Development and overview of the Government Healthy Food Environment Policy Index for assessing and benchmarking government policies globally (#192)
Food environments are a major contributor to the increasing global burdens of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The International Network for Food and Obesity/NCDs Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) was recently established to monitor and benchmark food environments, and the public and private sector policies influencing them, to reduce obesity, NCDs and their related inequalities. One of the INFORMAS modules aims to assess and benchmark government policies to create healthy food environments. This monitoring framework was developed based on a review of recommendations for improving food environments and population diets from United Nations bodies, governments and expert advisory groups, and a week-long consultation with international experts. The resulting Government Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) comprises a ‘policy’ component with seven domains to improve the healthiness of food environments, and an ‘infrastructure support’ component with seven domains to strengthen systems to prevent obesity and diet-related NCDs. Good practice statements are proposed within each domain, and those will evolve into best existing practice exemplars in the future. A rating process is proposed for assessing a government’s level of policy implementation towards good practice and involves the following steps: 1. Context analysis, 2. Collection of relevant policy documents, 3. Evidence-grounding the policies and actions, 4. Validation of evidence with government officials, 5. Rating of government policies by non-government public health experts and organisations, 6. Weighting and aggregation of scores and calculation of the Food-EPI, 7. Collection of comments and recommendations from raters, and 8. Translation of results for governments and stakeholders. This process ideally should be driven by an existing or formed ‘national coalition’ of public health non-government organisations and researchers. The Food-EPI will be pre-tested and piloted in countries of varying size and income levels, and may potentially increase and improve government policies and actions to reduce obesity and NCDs.