Setting a framework for healthy and sustainable food systems

Diet is recognised as a leading contributor to both the disease burden and unsustainable food systems – but we haven’t yet got the roadmap to navigate our way through these complex problems.

Professor Mark Lawrence is leading an ARC Discovery Project, ‘Reforming evidence synthesis and translation for food and nutrition policy’, which aims to develop and evaluate a framework to strategically guide evidence synthesis and translation for food and nutrition policies to effectively and safely tackle contemporary nutrition and food security problems.

“There is increasing knowledge that dietary risk factors are leading contributors to the national and global burden of disease as well as unsustainable food systems, but less knowledge – and some disagreement – about what to do to tackle these significant problems,” Professor Lawrence said.

Professor Lawrence said the project would use interdisciplinary approaches to integrate nutrition science, health promotion and policy science. He said the framework would be examined specifically in a policy-making context.

“We expect that this research will allow us to build the capacity to critically analyse existing policies and guide future food and nutrition policy,” he said.

“This will have significant benefits in terms of public health promotion, wellbeing and food system sustainability.”

Professor Lawrence said the focus for 2019 had been to develop a fit-for-purpose framework to serve as a hands-on device to guide nutrition evidence generation, synthesis and translation for nutrition policy-making.

“The draft framework has now been prepared. It has been constructed around four nutrition exposures – nutrients, foods, diets and food systems – and their relationships with multiple health outcomes, namely nutritional adequacy, obesity, non-communicable diseases and food security,” he explained.

Professor Lawrence said he hoped the research would lead to reforms in nutrition evidence generation, synthesis and translation for policy and practice.

“Through this project, we’re aiming to find ways to bring us towards building a healthier, more sustainable food environment,” he said.