Non-communicable diseases have been declared a crisis in the Pacific Islands. Increasing consumption of processed foods and meals is contributing significantly to increasing prevalence of obesity, hypertension and diabetes. In response to this, in line with global and regional commitments to improve diets, Pacific Island leaders are implementing new regulatory and fiscal policies, including taxes; targets or standards for nutrient content of processed foods; and school food guidelines. Our 5-year collaborative research project will advance knowledge of how to scale up food policy interventions to prevent diabetes and hypertension in the Pacific Islands. Building on Systems Thinking for Community Knowledge Exchange (STICKE), it will engage government ministries and civil society to design, implement and monitor evidence-informed interventions to reduce salt and sugar consumption. With interventions led by government Ministries in Fiji and Samoa and supported by The World Health Organisation, The Food and Agriculture Organisation and The Pacific Community, the specific objectives will be to: (1) establish baseline diets, food sources and food composition; (2) engage stakeholders to catalyse action to strengthen and monitor interventions through Systems Thinking in Community Knowledge Exchange (STICKE); and (3) to comprehensively monitor the process, impact and cost-effectiveness of implementing these policies. The main implementation science questions we want to address are: (1) which interventions are the most feasible for reducing salt and sugar consumption in the Pacific Islands and (2) what are the factors that lead to effective implementation of these interventions. In addition to new evidence and mechanisms to support scale up, a key output will be the development of a low-cost, low-tech, sustainable, scalable system for monitoring food consumption in relation to dietary health outcomes.
Dr Jacqui Webster
- National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia