Public Health Nutrition

Public policies

Evidence-informed process to identify policies that will promote a healthy food environment in the Pacific Islands

Wendy Snowdona1 c1, Mark Lawrencea1, Jimaima Schultza2, Paula Vivilia3 and Boyd Swinburna1

a1 WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Melbourne, Victoria 3125, Australia

a2 National Food and Nutrition Centre, Government Buildings, Suva, Fiji

a3 Ministry of Health, Nuku’alofa, Tonga


Objective To implement a systematic evidence-informed process to enable Fiji and Tonga to identify the most feasible and targeted policy interventions which would have most impact on diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Design A multisectoral stakeholder group of policy advisers was formed in each country. They used participatory approaches to identify the problem policies and gaps contributing to an unhealthy food environment. Potential solutions to these problems were then identified, and were assessed by them for feasibility, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and side-effects. Data were gathered on the food and policy environment to support the assessments. A shortlist of preferred policy interventions for action was then developed.

Results Sixty to eighty policy problems were identified in each country, affecting areas such as trade, agriculture, fisheries and pricing. Up to 100 specific potential policy solutions were then developed in each country. Assessment of the policies highlighted relevant problem areas including poor feasibility, limited effectiveness or cost-effectiveness and serious side-effects. A shortlist of twenty to twenty-three preferred new policy options for action in each country was identified.

Conclusions Policy environments in these two countries were not conducive to supporting healthy eating. Substantial areas of potential action are possible, but some represent better choices. It is important for countries to consider the impact of non-health policies on diets.

(Received May 21 2009)

(Accepted December 22 2009)

(Online publication March 03 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email