Priority actions for addressing the obesity epidemic in England
Watson F., Taylor A., Rayner M., Lobstein T., Hinks R.
Copyright © The Authors 2017. Objective To prioritise policy actions for government to improve the food environment and contribute to reduced obesity and related diseases. Design Cross-sectional study applying the Food Environment Policy Index (Food EPI) in two stages. First, the evidence on all relevant policies was compiled, through an Internet search of government documents, and reviewed for accuracy and completeness by government officials. Second, independent experts were brought together to identify critical gaps and prioritise actions to fill those gaps, through a two-stage rating process. Setting England. Subjects A total of seventy-three independent experts from forty-one organisations were involved in the exercise. Results The top priority policy actions for government identified were: (i) control the advertising of unhealthy foods to children; (ii) implement the levy on sugary drinks; (iii) reduce the sugar, fat and salt content in processed foods (leading to an energy reduction); (iv) monitor school and nursery food standards; (v) prioritise health and the environment in the 25-year Food and Farming Plan; (vi) adopt a national food action plan; (vii) monitor the food environment; (viii) apply buying standards to all public institutions; (ix) strengthen planning laws to discourage less healthy food offers; and (x) evaluate food-related programmes and policies. Conclusions Applying the Food EPI resulted in agreement on the ten priority actions required to improve the food environment. The Food EPI has proved to be a useful tool in developing consensus for action to address the obesity epidemic among a broad group of experts in a complex legislative environment.