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Applying Health in All Policies to obesity in South Australia

08 Feb 2016

Public policy strategies impact on population health by acting on the effectiveness, availability and distribution of the social determinants of health. Reducing obesity and promoting healthy weight is a key focus of governments, health promoters and researchers, and can benefit from a systems approach with ‘upstream’ policy action beyond the health sector. Although the literature identifies many areas for hypothetical non-health policy action, and in particular relating to food and activity environments, few have identified practical, politically viable and relatively cost-free processes by which non-health sectors would want to commit to such action. This article details how the Government of South Australia used the Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach in the SA HiAP Healthy Weight Project. It mapped the core business and policy directions of 44 state departments against research on ‘what works’ to address obesity. Negotiations then developed high-level policy commitments to address factors promoting healthy weight which predominantly changed ways of working rather than requiring new expenditure and also assisted departments in meeting their own goals; departmental chief executives endorsed the commitments. By starting from departmental documents, and not restricting the project to departments with more ‘obvious’ obesity prevention potential, we gained commitment to a broader range of policy actions than identified elsewhere; for example, for prisons, environment and botanic gardens, housing and vocational education. The SA HiAP Healthy Weight Project provides one example of a workable, evidence-based systems approach to increase commitment to practical and politically viable opportunities across government to address the non-health environments supporting healthy weight.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Health Promotion International