Monitoring and benchmarking government policies and actions to improve the healthiness of food environments: A proposed government healthy food environment policy index
Government action is essential to increase the healthiness of food environments and reduce obesity, diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and their related inequalities. This paper proposes a monitoring framework to assess government policies and actions for creating healthy food environments. Recommendations from relevant authoritative organizations and expert advisory groups for reducing obesity and NCDs were examined, and pertinent components were incorporated into a comprehensive framework for monitoring government policies and actions. A Government Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) was developed, which comprises a 'policy' component with seven domains on specific aspects of food environments, and an 'infrastructure support' component with seven domains to strengthen systems to prevent obesity and NCDs. These were revised through a week-long consultation process with international experts. Examples of good practice statements are proposed within each domain, and these will evolve into benchmarks established by governments at the forefront of creating and implementing food policies for good health. A rating process is proposed to assess a government's level of policy implementation towards good practice. The Food-EPI will be pre-tested and piloted in countries of varying size and income levels. The benchmarking of government policy implementation has the potential to catalyse greater action to reduce obesity and NCDs.