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1.  Food policies for physical and mental health 
BMC Psychiatry  2014;14:132.
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) account for the largest burden of early mortality and are predicted to cost the global community more than US $30 trillion over the next 20 years. Unhealthy dietary habits, in large part driven by substantial changes to global food systems, are recognised as major contributors to many of the common NCDs, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Recent evidence now indicates that unhealthy diets are also risk factors for mental disorders, particularly depression and dementia. This affords substantial scope to leverage on the established and developing approaches to the nutrition-related NCDs to address the large global burden of these mental disorders and reinforces the imperative for governments take substantial actions in regards to improving the food environment and consequent population health via policy initiatives.
PMCID: PMC4026829  PMID: 24884515
2.  Economics of Obesity — Learning from the Past to Contribute to a Better Future 
The discipline of economics plays a varied role in informing the understanding of the problem of obesity and the impact of different interventions aimed at addressing it. This paper discusses the causes of the obesity epidemic from an economics perspective, and outlines various justifications for government intervention in this area. The paper then focuses on the potential contribution of health economics in supporting resource allocation decision making for obesity prevention/treatment. Although economic evaluations of single interventions provide useful information, evaluations undertaken as part of a priority setting exercise provide the greatest scope for influencing decision making. A review of several priority setting examples in obesity prevention/treatment indicates that policy (as compared with program-based) interventions, targeted at prevention (as compared with treatment) and focused “upstream” on the food environment, are likely to be the most cost-effective options for change. However, in order to further support decision makers, several methodological advances are required. These include the incorporation of intervention costs/benefits outside the health sector, the addressing of equity impacts, and the increased engagement of decision makers in the priority setting process.
PMCID: PMC4025046  PMID: 24736685
obesity; prevention; economic evaluation; priority setting; interventions
3.  Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight 
Lancet  2011;378(9793):10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60812-X.
Obesity interventions can result in weight loss, but accurate prediction of the bodyweight time course requires properly accounting for dynamic energy imbalances. In this report, we describe a mathematical modelling approach to adult human metabolism that simulates energy expenditure adaptations during weight loss. We also present a web-based simulator for prediction of weight change dynamics. We show that the bodyweight response to a change of energy intake is slow, with half times of about 1 year. Furthermore, adults with greater adiposity have a larger expected weight loss for the same change of energy intake, and to reach their steady-state weight will take longer than it would for those with less initial body fat. Using a population-averaged model, we calculated the energy-balance dynamics corresponding to the development of the US adult obesity epidemic. A small persistent average daily energy imbalance gap between intake and expenditure of about 30 kJ per day underlies the observed average weight gain. However, energy intake must have risen to keep pace with increased expenditure associated with increased weight. The average increase of energy intake needed to sustain the increased weight (the maintenance energy gap) has amounted to about 0·9 MJ per day and quantifies the public health challenge to reverse the obesity epidemic.
PMCID: PMC3880593  PMID: 21872751
4.  Cost-Effectiveness of Fiscal Policies to Prevent Obesity 
Current Obesity Reports  2013;2(3):211-224.
Cost-effective, sustainable strategies are urgently required to curb the global obesity epidemic. To date, fiscal policies such as taxes and subsidies have been driven largely by imperatives to raise revenue or increase supply, rather than to change population behaviours. This paper reviews the economic evaluation literature around the use of fiscal policies to prevent obesity. The cost-effectiveness literature is limited, and more robust economic evaluation studies are required. However, uncertainty and gaps in the effectiveness evidence base need to be addressed first: more studies are needed that collect ‘real-world’ empirical data, and larger studies with more robust designs and longer follow-up timeframes are required. Reliability of cross-price elasticity data needs to be investigated, and greater consideration given to moderators of intervention effects and the sustainability of outcomes. Economic evaluations should adopt a societal perspective, incorporate a broader spectrum of economic costs and consider other factors likely to affect the implementation of fiscal measures. The paucity of recent cost-effectiveness studies means that definitive conclusions about the value for money of fiscal policies for obesity prevention cannot yet be drawn. However, as in other public health areas such as alcohol and tobacco, early indications are that population-level fiscal policies are likely to be potentially effective and cost-saving.
PMCID: PMC3731509  PMID: 23914317
Obesity prevention; Fiscal policies; Taxes; Subsidies; Cost-effectiveness; Economic evaluation; Price elasticity
5.  An analysis of potential barriers and enablers to regulating the television marketing of unhealthy foods to children at the state government level in Australia 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1123.
In Australia there have been many calls for government action to halt the effects of unhealthy food marketing on children's health, yet implementation has not occurred. The attitudes of those involved in the policy-making process towards regulatory intervention governing unhealthy food marketing are not well understood. The objective of this research was to understand the perceptions of senior representatives from Australian state and territory governments, statutory authorities and non-government organisations regarding the feasibility of state-level government regulation of television marketing of unhealthy food to children in Australia.
Data from in-depth semi-structured interviews with senior representatives from state and territory government departments, statutory authorities and non-government organisations (n=22) were analysed to determine participants' views about regulation of television marketing of unhealthy food to children at the state government level. Data were analysed using content and thematic analyses.
Regulation of television marketing of unhealthy food to children was supported as a strategy for obesity prevention. Barriers to implementing regulation at the state level were: the perception that regulation of television advertising is a Commonwealth, not state/territory, responsibility; the power of the food industry and; the need for clear evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of regulation. Evidence of community support for regulation was also cited as an important factor in determining feasibility.
The regulation of unhealthy food marketing to children is perceived to be a feasible strategy for obesity prevention however barriers to implementation at the state level exist. Those involved in state-level policy making generally indicated a preference for Commonwealth-led regulation. This research suggests that implementation of regulation of the television marketing of unhealthy food to children should ideally occur under the direction of the Commonwealth government. However, given that regulation is technically feasible at the state level, in the absence of Commonwealth action, states/territories could act independently. The relevance of our findings is likely to extend beyond Australia as unhealthy food marketing to children is a global issue.
PMCID: PMC3572413  PMID: 23272940
Unhealthy food; Regulation; Government; Children; Marketing; Advertising
6.  Regulation to Create Environments Conducive to Physical Activity: Understanding the Barriers and Facilitators at the Australian State Government Level 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e42831.
Policy and regulatory interventions aimed at creating environments more conducive to physical activity (PA) are an important component of strategies to improve population levels of PA. However, many potentially effective policies are not being broadly implemented. This study sought to identify potential policy/regulatory interventions targeting PA environments, and barriers/facilitators to their implementation at the Australian state/territory government level.
In-depth interviews were conducted with senior representatives from state/territory governments, statutory authorities and non-government organisations (n = 40) to examine participants': 1) suggestions for regulatory interventions to create environments more conducive to PA; 2) support for preselected regulatory interventions derived from a literature review. Thematic and constant comparative analyses were conducted.
Policy interventions most commonly suggested by participants fell into two areas: 1) urban planning and provision of infrastructure to promote active travel; 2) discouraging the use of private motorised vehicles. Of the eleven preselected interventions presented to participants, interventions relating to walkability/cycling and PA facilities received greatest support. Interventions involving subsidisation (of public transport, PA-equipment) and the provision of more public transport infrastructure received least support. These were perceived as not economically viable or unlikely to increase PA levels. Dominant barriers were: the powerful ‘road lobby’, weaknesses in the planning system and the cost of potential interventions. Facilitators were: the provision of evidence, collaboration across sectors, and synergies with climate change/environment agendas.
This study points to how difficult it will be to achieve policy change when there is a powerful ‘road lobby’ and government investment prioritises road infrastructure over PA-promoting infrastructure. It highlights the pivotal role of the planning and transport sectors in implementing PA-promoting policy, however suggests the need for clearer guidelines and responsibilities for state and local government levels in these areas. Health outcomes need to be given more direct consideration and greater priority within non-health sectors.
PMCID: PMC3459936  PMID: 23028434
7.  Moving beyond 'rates, roads and rubbish': How do local governments make choices about healthy public policy to prevent obesity? 
While the causes of obesity are well known traditional education and treatment strategies do not appear to be making an impact. One solution as part of a broader complimentary set of strategies may be regulatory intervention at local government level to create environments for healthy nutrition and increased physical activity. Semi structured interviews were conducted with representatives of local government in Australia. Factors most likely to facilitate policy change were those supported by external funding, developed from an evidence base and sensitive to community and market forces. Barriers to change included a perceived or real lack of power to make change and the complexity of the legislative framework. The development of a systematic evidence base to provide clear feedback on the size and scope of the obesity epidemic at a local level, coupled with cost benefit analysis for any potential regulatory intervention, are crucial to developing a regulatory environment which creates the physical and social environment required to prevent obesity.
PMCID: PMC2736971  PMID: 19698170
8.  A systematic policy approach to changing the food system and physical activity environments to prevent obesity 
As obesity prevention becomes an increasing health priority in many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, the challenge that governments are now facing is how to adopt a systematic policy approach to increase healthy eating and regular physical activity. This article sets out a structure for systematically identifying areas for obesity prevention policy action across the food system and full range of physical activity environments. Areas amenable to policy intervention can be systematically identified by considering policy opportunities for each level of governance (local, state, national, international and organisational) in each sector of the food system (primary production, food processing, distribution, marketing, retail, catering and food service) and each sector that influences physical activity environments (infrastructure and planning, education, employment, transport, sport and recreation). Analysis grids are used to illustrate, in a structured fashion, the broad array of areas amenable to legal and regulatory intervention across all levels of governance and all relevant sectors. In the Australian context, potential regulatory policy intervention areas are widespread throughout the food system, e.g., land-use zoning (primary production within local government), food safety (food processing within state government), food labelling (retail within national government). Policy areas for influencing physical activity are predominantly local and state government responsibilities including, for example, walking and cycling environments (infrastructure and planning sector) and physical activity education in schools (education sector). The analysis structure presented in this article provides a tool to systematically identify policy gaps, barriers and opportunities for obesity prevention, as part of the process of developing and implementing a comprehensive obesity prevention strategy. It also serves to highlight the need for a coordinated approach to policy development and implementation across all levels of government in order to ensure complementary policy action.
PMCID: PMC2427044  PMID: 18534001

Results 1-8 (8)