TAKING NECESSARY ACTION ON FOOD POLICY
In 2017, nearly 11 million deaths were attributed to poor diets, an increase of 42% from 1990. Unless we urgently improve our diets, premature mortality will increase and economic development will be undermined.
The good news is that the problem is preventable. We are supporting the enactment and evaluation of policy efforts that aim to move people toward healthier diets in cities and countries around the world.
Building on our extensive experience in tobacco control, Bloomberg Philanthropies is playing a similar role by supporting civil society organizations and research institutions to promote policies that reduce consumer demand for unhealthy foods and beverages, improve the food environment, and make healthier choices easier for everyone. Based on the best-available evidence, policies that could have the most impact include:
- Raising taxes on sugary beverages and junk food
- Limiting children’s and adolescents’ exposure to unhealthy food and beverage marketing through comprehensive marketing bans
- Promoting healthy food policies for the public sector, especially schools
- Introducing understandable and informative front-of-package nutrition labels
Bloomberg Philanthropies identifies governments and top research and advocacy organizations that have a demonstrated commitment to improving the food environment and augments their efforts through the provision of resources and technical assistance. Our locations of focus are Brazil, the Caribbean (Jamaica & Barbados), Colombia, Mexico, South Africa, and the United States. All of these countries have high rates of overweight and obese populations, and all are taking action.
Our program also invests in rigorous evaluation of these policies once implemented. Ultimately, effective policies can be replicated in cities, states, and countries around the world.
In addition to these countries, we support the evaluation of other promising policies in low- and middle-income countries around the world. For example, researchers are examining the impact of Chile’s law that requires front-of-package warning labels on unhealthy foods and beverages, puts limits on how those foods can be marketed, and restricts them from schools.
To deepen impact and enhance existing work, our program has expanded to include new elements:
- Rapid response grants to support the adoption of healthy food policies in low- and middle-income countries
- A Legal Defense Fund to help governments defend strong, evidence-based healthy food measures against legal challenges brought by well-resourced companies or industry bodies.
- Establishment of the Global Center for Legal Innovation on Food Environments at Georgetown Law School’s O’Neill Institute to help build capacity in healthy food law and provide legal support to countries
- A Healthy Food Policy Fellowship to support future leaders in building research and legal capacity in focus countries