A number of internationally recognised experts, university research groups and five global non-government organisations, called INFORMAS, plan to monitor food environments all around the world to check the progress countries are making in implementing healthy food policies.
The group launched their plans at the International Congress of Nutrition in Granada, Spain, this week, accompanied by the publication of a series of papers in the journal Obesity Reviews that outlines the group's approach to monitoring all the important aspects of the food landscape.
The INFORMAS monitoring program will commence next year in several pilot countries, including Australia. The researchers will also identify those countries which have the healthiest food policies and use them as international benchmarks against which to assess national progress towards best practice.
'No country has reversed the obesity epidemic, in part because widely-recommended healthy food policies have not been fully implemented.' said Dr Gary Sacks, Research Fellow at the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, 'Researchers have documented the increasing obesity problem for several decades and it is long overdue to start documenting how well the agreed solutions are being applied and what effect policies are having on the food landscape.'
'Some countries have made good progress in getting policies like healthy school food implemented, but many other recommended policies such as restricting unhealthy food marketing to children are just not happening,' said Dr Sacks.
All countries have signed up to a World Health Organization target of reducing premature death from non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, by 25% by the year 2025. 'The target is to achieve no further increase in obesity rates, and this will be one of the most challenging targets to reach since countries are almost all heading in the wrong direction,' according to Dr Sacks, 'Changes in food environments will respond quite quickly to healthy food policies, and we hope to detect early changes in reducing the drivers of obesity. This will be critical in monitoring progress towards the WHO targets.'
The INFORMAS work is under the auspices of the International Obesity Taskforce.
The INFORMAS papers are available online here.