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Monitoring the degree of implementation of widely recommended food environment policies by national governments is an important part of stimulating progress towards better population nutritional health.
The Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) was applied for the second time in New Zealand in 2017 (initially applied in 2014) to measure progress on implementation of widely recommended food environment policies. A national panel of 71 independent (n = 48) and government (n = 23) public health experts rated the extent of implementation of 47 policy and infrastructure support good practice indicators by the Government against international best practice, using an extensive evidence document verified by government officials. Experts proposed and prioritised concrete actions needed to address the critical implementation gaps identified.
Inter-rater reliability was good (Gwet’s AC2 > 0.8). Approximately half (47%) of the indicators were rated as having ‘low’ or ‘very little, if any’ implementation compared to international benchmarks, a decrease since 2014 (60%). A lower proportion of infrastructure support (29%) compared to policy (70%) indicators were rated as having ‘low’ or ‘very little, if any’ implementation. The experts recommended 53 actions, prioritising nine for immediate implementation; three of those prioritised actions were the same as in 2014. The vast majority of experts agreed that the Food-EPI is likely to contribute to beneficial policy change and increased their knowledge about food environments and policies.
The Food-EPI has the potential to increase accountability of governments to implement widely recommended food environment policies and reduce the burden of obesity and diet-related diseases.