Barriers and Enablers for Healthy Food Systems and Environments: The Role of Local Governments

Publication Name

Current Nutrition Reports


Purpose of review: Food systems at all levels are experiencing various states of dysfunction and crisis, and in turn their governance contributes to other intensifying crises, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the rapid expansion of dietary-related non-communicable diseases. In many jurisdictions governments at local, state and national levels are taking action to tackle some of the key challenges confronting food systems through a range of regulatory, legislative and fiscal measures. This article comprises a narrative review summarising recent relevant literature with a focus on the intersection between corporate power and public health. The review sought to identify some of the principal barriers for the design and support of healthy food systems and environments, as well as key reforms that can be adopted to address these barriers, with a focus on the role of local governments. Recent findings: The review found that, where permitted to do so by authorising legislative and regulatory frameworks, and where political and executive leadership prioritises healthy and sustainable food systems, local governments have demonstrated the capacity to exercise legislative and regulatory powers, such as planning powers to constrain the expansion of the fast food industry. In doing so, they have been able to advance broader goals of public health and wellbeing, as well as support the strengthening and expansion of healthy and sustainable food systems. Summary: Whilst local governments in various jurisdictions have demonstrated the capacity to take effective action to advance public health and environmental goals, such interventions take place in the context of a food system dominated by the corporate determinants of health. Accordingly, their wider health-promoting impact will remain limited in the absence of substantive reform at all levels of government.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access



Link to publisher version (DOI)