Implementing healthy food policies in health services: A qualitative study

Tara Boelsen-Robinson, Miranda R. Blake, Kathryn Backholer, Janitha Hettiarachchi, Claire Palermo, Anna Peeters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: In 2012, a large Australian metropolitan health service introduced a healthy food policy, where there was a requirement for food and drinks for sale within retail stores to conform to standards based on macronutrients and energy content. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the experience of those implementing a healthy food retail policy in order to inform the translation of such policies into other organisations. Methods: A qualitative approach was used, with semistructured interviews exploring informants’ involvement in, experiences of, factors affecting and perceived outcomes of policy implementation. Interviews were conducted with seven individuals participating in the introduction of the healthy food retail policy. Results were analysed using a thematic analysis approach. Results: Four themes and 21 sub-themes were identified, with analysis interpreted using the socio-ecological model. Participants identified that successful policy implementation hinged on the provision of resources and support by the health service to the retail staff. Trusting relationships between retail and health service staff were built through effective and frequent communication. The fear of tensions between the policy and business income had significantly lessened after implementation. A key factor contributing to this change was the use of low-risk trials to remove less healthy products or introduce new healthier foods. Conclusions: Implementing a healthy food retail policy within a health service benefits from dedicated resourcing, investment in relationship building with key stakeholders and introducing changes gradually with a long-term approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-343
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • food services
  • health services
  • policy
  • public health nutrition
  • qualitative research

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