Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Public Health and Nutrition


The objective of this study was to identify factors which were important in the development of locally-based, healthy public policy, with a view to contributing to theoretical understanding of the policy process. The health issue of food and nutrition at the local level of government was selected as the focus of the study.

As background to the policy analysis, the extent of local government involvement in food and nutrition initiatives was determined through a national postal survey sent to all local governments in Australia (N = 742). The results of this survey indicated that local governments in Australia were involved in all aspects of the food and nutrition system. Their involvement in non-mandated aspects of food and nutrition (eg nutrition education, emergency food services and food retail planning) was variable. Logistic regression analysis of the survey data identified factors associated with involvement in non-mandated food and nutrition activities, including the resource base of local governments, the state in which they were located, the rural or urban nature of their geographic area and personal attitudes of staff.

The main focus of the study was case studies on four local governments which had attempted to establish, or which had established, food and nutrition policies. The case studies were based on interviews with local government and health services staff and published data (eg annual reports and minutes of meetings).

The findings of the study indicated that institutional, localism and bureaucratic models of the policy process most appropriately describe policy making within local government. The nature of the policy issue also was found to be important, supporting the importance of incorporating consideration of the agenda setting process. A high level of involvement of bureaucrats in the policy process was found. At the personal level, an individual's attitudes were important, as were their skills in administrative and policy processes. As an entity, an individual represented a particular position, such as a professional, bureaucrat and/or manager, from which they influenced the policy process either directly within the institution or through their access to information and resources. Individuals and organisations interacted to provide different opportunities to influence the policy process. In some instances an individual may act to establish alliances with other individuals through which they pursued their policy agenda. In other instances individuals acted as policy entrepreneurs, with preferred policy positions.

The findings of this study provide an important starting place from which further research may be developed to elucidate greater insight into the individual influences on the policy process. It will be important to establish which roles of individuals exert more influence on the policy process, and in what circumstances. Conclusions were drawn about the value of theories of the policy process to the development of healthy public policy within the specific environment of Australian local government. It is anticipated that information from this study will be of assistance to health professionals who are working within and with a range of local organisations, with the common aim of improving the health of communities. It also will be of value to administrators and educators who are interested in creating an environment which is supportive of the development of healthy public policy.