National nutrition policy in high-income countries: is health equity on the agenda?

Christina Zorbas, Jennifer Browne, Alexandra Chung, Phillip Baker, Claire E. Palermo, Erica Reeve, Anna Peeters, Kathryn Backholer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Objective: Equity-oriented policy actions are a key public health principle. In this study, how equity and socioeconomic inequalities are represented in policy problematizations of population nutrition were examined. Data Sources: We retrieved a purposive sample of government nutrition-policy documents (n = 18) from high-income nations. Data Synthesis: Thematic analysis of policy documents was informed by a multitheoretical understanding of equitable policies and Bacchi’s “What’s the Problem Represented to be?’ analysis framework. Despite common rhetorical concerns about the existence of health inequalities, these concerns were often overshadowed by greater emphasis on lifestyle “problems” and reductionist policy actions. The notion that policy actions should be for all and reach everyone were seldom backed by specific actions. Rhetorical acknowledgements of the upstream drivers of health inequalities were also rarely problematized, as were government responsibilities for health equity and the role of policy and governance in reducing socioeconomic inequalities in nutrition. Conclusion: To positively influence health equity outcomes, national nutrition policy will need to transition toward the prioritization of actions that uphold social justice and comprehensively address the upstream determinants of health.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalNutrition Reviews
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Nov 2020


  • food policy
  • healthy equity
  • obesity prevention
  • problematization
  • socioeconomic inequalities

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