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Poor diet is the leading preventable risk factor contributing to the burden of disease in Australia. A range of cost-effective, comprehensive population-focussed strategies are available to address these dietary-related diseases. However, despite evidence of their effectiveness, minimal federal resources are directed to this area. To better understand the limited public health nutrition policy action in Australia, we sought to identify the key policy brokers in the Australian nutrition policy network and consider their level of influence over nutrition policymaking.
A social network analysis involving four rounds of data collection was undertaken using a modified reputational snowball method to identify the nutrition policy network of individuals in direct contact with each other. Centrality measures, in particular betweenness centrality, and a visualisation of the network were used to identify key policy brokers.
Three hundred and ninety (390) individual actors with 1917 direct ties were identified within the Australian nutrition policy network. The network revealed two key brokers; a Nutrition Academic and a General Health professional from a non-government organisation (NGO), with the latter being in the greatest strategic position for influencing policymakers.
The results of this social network analysis illustrate there are two dominant brokers within the nutrition policy network in Australia. However their structural position in the network means their brokerage roles have different purposes and different levels of influence on policymaking. The results suggest that brokerage in isolation may not adequately represent influence in nutrition policy in Australia. Other factors, such as direct access to decision–makers and the saliency of the solution, must also be considered.