Obesity prevention

Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition

We were first established as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention in 2003 and continue to have a major focus on obesity prevention through our research and advocacy. We have close links to governments, other research groups and a diverse range of collaborators globally in obesity prevention and population nutrition.

Our research in obesity prevention aims to improve the policy response to obesity and unhealthy diets, and to understand how the development and implementation of these policies can be enhanced.

We have a strong commitment to ensuring that our research findings are communicated widely and are used to inform policy and practice. We regularly contribute to WHO reports and consultations on obesity prevention. We also partner closely with the Obesity Policy Coalition and other public health organisations.

Our research focuses on:

  • building evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions for obesity prevention
  • understanding influences on policy development processes
  • mechanisms for increasing the accountability of governments and food companies.
  • Food Policy Index for Australia

    This ongoing initiative (since 2016) benchmarks the obesity prevention policies of Australian state/territory and federal governments. The project implements the Health Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) tool that the International Network for Food and Obesity/Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS)  has developed to assess government policy across 14 action areas relating to food environments. The original scorecards for each government were launched in 2017, followed by a progress update in 2019. The next assessment will be launched in the fourth quarter of 2022.

  • Evidence for obesity prevention

    GLOBE researchers were commissioned in 2019 to lead the primary evidence review that underpinned the development of the National Obesity Strategy. The evidence review focused on the effectiveness of policy interventions for addressing obesity, and directly informed the strategies included as part of the National Obesity Strategy released in 2022.

  • Inside our food companies

    This initiative assesses the largest Australian food companies on their polices and commitments related to obesity prevention and nutrition, across 3 major food industry sectors: supermarkets, food and beverage manufacturers, and quick service restaurants. The project used the BIA-Obesity tool developed by INFORMAS to assess company policies across 6 key action areas, including marketing to children, product formulation and nutrition labelling. The objective was to highlight where Australian food companies were demonstrating progress in relation to obesity prevention and nutrition, and to identify priority recommendations at both the company and sector level. This project was awarded the prestigious VicHealth ‘Research into Action’ Award in 2018.

  • WHO STOPS (Whole of System Trial of Prevention Strategies for Childhood Obesity)

    In Australia, approximately one in four school children live with overweight or obesity. It is estimated that obesity costs the economy around $21 billion annually in direct health and indirect cost among adults. Childhood and adolescence are critical windows for obesity prevention, as childhood obesity largely persists into adulthood, as do health behaviours established during early life including diet and physical activity.

    Monitoring overweight and obesity is crucial in Australia and internationally to analyse prevailing trends, pinpoint existing and widening disparities, facilitate interventions and shape policies. Presently, Australia lacks a systematic and highly participatory routine monitoring system at the local, state, and national levels among school-children. This stands in contrast to numerous other countries and states such as England, several U.S. states, Singapore, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Recognizing the need for regular and comprehensive monitoring, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has emphasized the necessity for behavioural and environmental risk factor monitoring.

    In 2015, after receiving a Western Alliance Grants In-Aid award, the Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition team (GLOBE) at Deakin University alongside community partners, set to establish Australia’s largest measured childhood obesity surveillance system that employed an opt-out approach to student recruitment. This surveillance system covered the six local government areas (LGA) including five within the Great South Coast region (Southern Grampians, Glenelg, Moyne, Warrnambool, Corangamite) and the Colac Otway Shire, herein collectively referred to as ‘the region’. Measurement in 2017 and 2019 were funded through an NHMRC Partnership Project Grant.

    Download the Regional Child Health Behaviours and Monitoring Report (2015-2019): Southwest Victoria