Measuring and Benchmarking Food Environments and Policies in Latin America
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are responsible for three out of every four deaths in Latin America. Poor diet is increasingly contributing to preventable, premature deaths and illnesses related to NCDs. This project will monitor and benchmark food policies and environments in Mexico and Chile to address the problem. Specifically, it aims to enhance government and private sector accountability to increase healthy foods, and reduce obesity and diet-related NCDs. Demographic changes in Latin America, combined with shifting nutritional habits, have led to increases in obesity and diabetes rates. Globally, researchers have found that unhealthy food environments drive unhealthy diets. However, there is a lack of rigorous and comparable data from Latin American countries. Food environments are defined as the collective physical, economic, policy, and socio-cultural surroundings, opportunities, and conditions that influence people's food consumption patterns. The core premise of this project is that regular, comparable monitoring of food environments and the policies shaping them will allow evaluation of the impact of national food policies on obesity and NCDs, especially when surveyed across countries and over time. The project team will conduct the research in Chile and Mexico. Researchers will use the monitoring tools developed by the INFORMAS network (International Network for Food and Obesity/Non-Communicable Diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support). INFORMAS is a global network of public interest organizations and researchers that aims to monitor, benchmark, and support public and private sector actions to -create healthy food environments -reduce obesity and non-communicable diseases -reduce the inequalities caused by obesity and NCDs This project represents the first attempt to extensively evaluate and compare food environments and policies using the INFORMAS methods outside of high-income countries. The project team will test a package of research tools that may be applied globally to inform obesity prevention strategies. This research is timely, specifically in Chile and Mexico, where both countries are experimenting with innovative policies to deal with overweight and obesity rates that are among the highest in the world.