Background Food-EPI has been developed by the International Network for Food and Obesity/Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) Research, Monitoring, and Action Support. It is classified into two components: ‘policies’ and ‘infrastructure support’. The policy component includes 7 domains to address the key aspects of food environments, that can be influenced by governments to create healthy food choices. The infrastructure support component includes 6 domains that facilitate policy development and implementation to prevent obesity and NCDs. Good practice statements are proposed within each domain, describing ‘best practices’ governments put in place to contribute towards a healthier food environment. The aim of this work was to assess and compare the extent of implementation of national government policies and actions in Ireland, for creating healthy food environments against international best practice, and identifying the major implementation gaps.
Methods Evidence on the extent of government implementation of different policies on food environments and infrastructure support was collected. Government officials validated the evidence document, and an online survey with public health experts and NGO representatives to rate the performance of government against international best practice was conducted. The experts independently scored the degree of implementation of those policies against international benchmarks. A one-day workshop was convened with the expert rating panel to identify potential policy actions. Online prioritisation of these actions will be prioritised.
Results There was very little to low levels of implementation for indicators in the ‘policy domain’. Specifically very low levels for ‘Food composition targets for out of home meals’; restricting unhealthy food promotion to children’, ‘healthy public procurement standards;and ‘zoning laws encouraging healthy food outlets’. Only one indicator in the policy domain was rated with a high level of implementation ‘increasing taxes on unhealthy foods’. In the infrastructure domain experts rated policy implementation from medium to high. Experts identified 18 actions in the policy domain and 16 actions in the infrastructure domain to be brought forward for prioritisation.
Conclusion This is the first Food-EPI to be conducted in Ireland. It will allow for the first time benchmarking of Irish food environment policies against international best practice and thus identify Government action (or inaction) to improve Irish food environments.
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