Policy research on obesity and food systems

This project aims to reduce the burden of obesity and related diseases through research, methods development, capacity building, and knowledge exchange on policy actions for creating healthy, sustainable, equitable food systems and reversing obesogenic environments.


Worsening adult obesity is anticipated to cause a progressively increasing burden of morbidity and mortality in the coming decades with almost two-thirds of the Australian population already either overweight or obese in 2008. Obesity has typically been viewed as a personal problem caused by poor food choices that lead to an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure.

However, it is now widely appreciated that the food environment has played a central role in the rise of obesity in Australia and around the world. Massive expansions in the supply of cheap, palatable, nutrient-poor, energy-dense foods, in conjunction with food distribution systems that make food more convenient and accessible have underpinned the obesity epidemic. 

In conjunction with highly persuasive and pervasive food marketing, average energy consumption levels have soared around the world.


This project will involve the development of policy-relevant indicators to assess the nutrient composition of the food supply.

The indicators will incorporate the influence of macronutrient composition (carbohydrate, fat, protein), sodium composition, energy density and portion size of food products on obesity and non-communicable diseases. These indicators will assess the overall ‘healthiness’ of the food supply, as well as facilitating the long-term monitoring of any food-supply related actions and outcomes.

Furthermore, these indicators will be used to inform, advocate and provide recommendations for areas of improvement in creating a healthier food supply to both government and industry.

We recognise the importance of multi-sector policy engagement, and will incorporate a wide range of partners, and focus heavily on knowledge translation and exchange.

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