COVID-19 social policies: Impacts on food choice and food system experiences among low-income households in Australia

Obesity Prevention

Investigating how social policies impact diet-related health – particularly for low-income households

Challenge

COVID-19 has rapidly changed the daily conditions where people grow, learn, work and age (the social determinants of health and health inequalities) and triggered unprecedented implementation of national social policies to support the growing number of vulnerable Australians. Given that much of the socioeconomic inequalities in weight and cardiovascular disease are mediated by diet patterns, it’s important to understand how social policies can help to create fairer opportunities for all Australians to purchase and consume a healthy diet.

Solution

The recent implementation of a suite of social policies in response to the COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to investigate how such social policies impact diet-related health – particularly for low-income households.

Impact

Findings will be used to inform policy and practice to ensure a greater degree of food resilience for vulnerable families into the future. Additionally, this study will inform a larger program of research seeking to achieve this vision. We will also seek to maintain and strengthen the partnerships that we establish with community members for planned future research.

Partners

Christina Zorbas, Jennifer Browne, Anna Peeters, Steven Allender, Kathryn Backholer, Global Obesity Centre, School of Health and Social Development, Institute for Health Transformation, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, Alexandra Chung,School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Sue Booth, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University, Christina Pollard, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University Corinna Hawkes, Centre for Food Policy, School of Health Sciences, Division of Health Services Research and Management, City, University of London

COVID-19 has rapidly changed the daily conditions where people grow, learn, work and age (the social determinants of health and health inequalities) and has triggered unprecedented implementation of national social policies to support the growing number of vulnerable Australians. Many of these ‘crisis’ policies have been enforced with a short-term view to help Australians meet basic living standards in the face of socioeconomic hardship during the COVID-19 crisis.

Those with a lower socioeconomic position experience greater diet-related burdens of morbidity and mortality compared to their higher socioeconomic counterparts.

Within this context ensuring physical and economic access to healthy foods is of paramount importance.

Given that much of the socioeconomic inequalities in weight and cardiovascular disease are mediated by diet patterns, it’s important to understand how social policies can help to create fairer opportunities for all Australians to purchase and consume a healthy diet.

The recent implementation of a suite of social policies in response to the COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to investigate how such social policies impact diet-related health – particularly for low-income households.

Findings will be used to inform policy and practice to ensure a greater degree of food resilience for vulnerable families into the future. Additionally, this study will inform a larger program of research seeking to achieve this vision. We will also seek to maintain and strengthen the partnerships that we establish with community members for planned future research.