Government regulation to promote healthy food environments – a view from inside state governments
Shill, J., Mavoa, H., Allender, S., Lawrence, M., Sacks, G., Peeters, A., Crammond, B. and Swinburn, B.
Food policy interventions are an important component of obesity-prevention strategies and can potentially drive positive changes in obesogenic environments. This study sought to identify regulatory interventions targeting the food environment, and barriers/facilitators to their implementation at the Australian state government level. In-depth interviews were conducted with senior representatives from state/territory governments, statutory authorities and non-government organizations (n = 45) to examine participants' (i) suggestions for regulatory interventions for healthier food environments and (ii) support for pre-selected regulatory interventions derived from a literature review. Data were analysed using thematic and constant comparative analyses. Interventions commonly suggested by participants were regulating unhealthy food marketing; limiting the density of fast food outlets; pricing reforms to decrease fruit/vegetable prices and increase unhealthy food prices; and improved food labelling. The most commonly supported pre-selected interventions were related to food marketing and service. Primary production and retail sector interventions were least supported. The dominant themes were the need for whole-of-government and collaborative approaches; the influence of the food industry; conflicting policies/agenda; regulatory challenges; the need for evidence of effectiveness; and economic disincentives. While interventions such as public sector healthy food service policies were supported by participants, marketing restrictions and fiscal interventions face substantial barriers including a push for deregulation and private sector opposition.
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