Deakin University

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Perseverance, partnerships and passion: ingredients for successful local government policy to promote healthy and sustainable diets

journal contribution
posted on 2023-10-13, 03:44 authored by LR Barbour, Julie WoodsJulie Woods, JK Brimblecombe
Background: Local government authorities are well-placed to invest in evidence-based food policies that promote a population-wide shift to healthy and sustainable diets. This study describes the contextual factors that facilitated or impeded policy-making related to healthy and sustainable diets within a ‘best-performing’ local government in Victoria, Australia. Methods: Guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR), data from semi-structured interviews with individuals involved in developing the City of Greater Bendigo’s Food System Strategy were analysed using the seven-stage Framework Method. Results: Semi-structured interviews (n = 24) were conducted with City of Greater Bendigo employees (n = 15) and key stakeholders working for local organisations (n = 6) or at a state or national level (n = 3). Interviewees mostly held positions of leadership (n = 20) and represented diverse areas of focus from health (n = 7), food systems (n = 4) and planning and public policy (n = 3). Data analysis revealed 12 cross-cutting themes; eight facilitating factors and four impeding factors. Facilitating factors included perseverance, community engagement, supportive state policy, effective leadership, a global platform and networks, partnerships, workforce capacity and passion, and the use of scientific evidence. Impeding factors included access to secure, ongoing financial resources, prohibitive state and federal policy, COVID-related disruptions to community engagement and competing stakeholder interests. Overall, this study suggests that the City of Greater Bendigo’s success in developing an evidence-based local food system policy is built upon (i) a holistic worldview that embraces systems-thinking and credible frameworks, (ii) a sustained commitment and investment throughout the inner-setting over time, and (iii) the ability to establish and nurture meaningful partnerships with community groups, neighbouring local government areas and state-level stakeholders, built upon values of reciprocity and respect. Conclusions: Despite insufficient resourcing and prohibitive policy at higher levels of government, this ‘best performing’ local government in Victoria, Australia developed an evidence-based food system policy by employing highly skilled and passionate employees, embracing a holistic worldview towards planetary health and harnessing global networks. Local government authorities aspiring to develop integrated food policy should nurture a workforce culture of taking bold evidence-informed policy action, invest in mechanisms to enable long-standing partnerships with community stakeholders and be prepared to endure a ‘slow-burn’ approach.



BMC Public Health



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