Developing consensus on the strategic priorities for the prevention of obesity amongst the Australian population

  • Emily Haynes

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Previous research has identified key barriers to obesity-related policy implementation internationally and in Australia. Food industry stakeholders emphasise the lack of evidence and propose ethical concerns of a ‘nanny state’ around population-wide policies to regulate obesogenic environments, undermining public and political support for government intervention. Policy framing, and public and political support are essential for successful policy adoption, and collaborative research is essential to strengthen pathways to action. This thesis describes a body of research that is concerned with how governments can influence choice through obesity-related policy, with a specific focus on the concepts of policy intrusiveness and impact to autonomy. The findings emphasise the value of bringing forward under-represented views, to rebalance debate, and suggest that this may be the key to bolder obesity-related policies. There is scope to apply the methods in other national contexts and towards other complex public health issues where decision making is hampered by a lack of evidence. The priorities of dominant perspectives may deviate from other stakeholder groups, and where commercial and academic conflicts of interest are excluded from debate, there is high-level consensus around effectiveness and two ethical considerations to obesity policy adoption. Finally, reframing policy options through their impact on individual autonomy may strengthen societal support for bolder action. Despite currently limited empirical evidence for the effectiveness of population-wide policy to address obesity, governments should be confident in implementing those which are perceived to simultaneously enhance individual autonomy and the population’s health. According to this research, this comprises the majority of obesity-related food policy options available to the Australian Government.
Date of Award7 Oct 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDianne Reidlinger (Supervisor) & Paul Glasziou (Supervisor)

Cite this