a1 Department of Food Technology and Nutrition, Faculty of Agricultural and Applied Biological Sciences, Ghent University, Coupure links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
a2 Nutrition Unit, Department of Public Health, Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium
a3 Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
a4 Department of Health Sciences – Vesalius, Hogeschool Gent, Ghent, Belgium
a5 Unité de Biochimie de la Nutrition, Faculté d'Ingénierie Biologique, Agronomique et Environnementale, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Objective This study presents an overview of national nutrition action plans in the member states of the European Union (EU), before its enlargement in 2004. In addition, their compliance with key recommendations of the World Health Organization, as documented in the First Action Plan for Food and Nutrition Policy and the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, has tentatively been evaluated on the basis of the policy documents published.
Design Literature review of publicly available policy national plans on nutrition and physical activity.
Setting Member states of the EU before enlargement in May 2004.
Results The development of national nutrition action plans is gaining momentum. Six of the 15 EU member states – namely, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, France, The Netherlands and the UK – have an operational nutrition policy and four of them have published an elaborated description of their nutrition policy in English. By the end of 2004, another four countries are expected to have their plan finalised. The available nutrition action plans generally seem to comply with international recommendations, although large variations are observed between the member states in terms of terminology, nutritional recommendations, institutional framework, nutritional scope, social groups targeted and monitoring and evaluation structures.
Conclusions Although the importance of nutritional surveillance, a comprehensive approach to nutritional problems and stakeholder involvement is recognised by the action plans, the justification for it is vaguely described. This paper advocates for proper evaluation and documentation of interventions in public health nutrition and nutrition policies.
(Received July 14 2004)
(Accepted October 25 2004)