Moving obesity prevention to the non-health sector (#236)
Background: Whilst obesity is complex and results from the interaction of multiple factors, most of the determinants lie outside the health sector. Deakin University’s new NHMRC funded Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) in Obesity Policy and Food Systems proposes to move the focus of obesity prevention solutions to the non-health sector. Its 5 year research program aims to ensure that healthy, equitable and sustainable food systems are a central focus of obesity policy, and that complementary health-promoting policies are incorporated in sectors such as planning, transport, education and trade.
Methods: The Centre’s research program is structured on an overarching policy process moving from problem analysis, policy formulation and implementation to long-term monitoring of actions and outcomes. It will generate knowledge and evidence to support policy making by (i) evaluating the economic credentials of 40 non-health sector policy interventions; (ii) exploring best practice approaches for enhancing evidence-informed policy development and implementation; (iii) measuring/modelling the impacts of policies being implemented in both Australia and the Pacific Region; and (iv) developing and implementing global benchmarks and databases of government and food industry progress in key areas of obesity policy action. This will entail methodological innovations (such as the quantification of equity effects, the application of systems dynamics modelling to obesity prevention), plus the building of dialogue and new collaborations with a diverse range of policy and decision makers in the non-health sectors.
Conclusions: The CRE’s coordinated, innovative research agenda aims to address diverse sectors (both health and non-health), differing levels (international, national, state and community) and upstream drivers of obesity (particularly the food system, urban development and other environmental factors). It provides a unique opportunity for active translation into policy and practice thereby boosting obesity prevention efforts both in Australia and globally.