Using political science to progress public health nutrition: a systematic review

Cullerton, Katherine, Donnet, Timothy, Lee, Amanda, & Gallegos, Danielle (2016) Using political science to progress public health nutrition: a systematic review. Public Health Nutrition, 19(11), pp. 2070-2078.

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Poor dietary intake is the most important behavioural risk factor affecting health globally. Despite this, there has been little investment in public health nutrition policy actions. Policy process theories from the field of political science can aid understanding why policy decisions have occurred and identify how to influence ongoing or future initiatives. This review aims to examine public health nutrition policy literature and identify whether a policy process theory has been used to analyse the process.


Electronic databases were searched systematically for studies examining policymaking in public health nutrition in high-income, democratic countries.


International, national, state and local government jurisdictions within high-income, democratic countries.


Individuals and organisations involved in the nutrition policymaking process.


Sixty-three studies met the eligibility criteria, most were conducted in the USA and a majority focused on obesity. The analysis demonstrates an accelerating trend in the number of nutrition policy papers published annually and an increase in the diversity of nutrition topics examined. The use of policy process theory was observed from 2003, however, it was utilised by only 14% of the reviewed papers.


There is limited research into the nutrition policy process in high-income countries. While there has been a small increase in the use of policy process theory from 2003, an opportunity to expand their use is evident. We suggest that nutrition policymaking would benefit from a pragmatic approach that ensures those trying to influence or understand the policymaking process are equipped with basic knowledge around these theories.

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ID Code: 86979
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: nutrition policy, political theory, advocacy, obesity, policy process
DOI: 10.1017/S1368980015002712
ISSN: 1475-2727
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > NUTRITION AND DIETETICS (111100) > Public Nutrition Intervention (111104)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Health Policy (160508)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences
Current > Schools > School of Management
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 The author(s)
Deposited On: 28 Aug 2015 01:50
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2016 21:50

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