Ways to encourage people to make healthier food choices will be the subject of a five-year $5 million research programme led by NIHI Nutrition Programme Leader, Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu.
The programme, entitled ‘Effective interventions and policies to improve population nutrition and health’, has received funding from the Health Research Council (HRC) in its 2013 research programme funding round announced this week.
Professor Ni Mhurchu believes the study could help ease the burden of diet-related disease on the country's health system.
Unhealthy diet leads to an estimated 11,000 deaths each year in New Zealand, from heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, she says.
"We don't have very good evidence about how potential interventions like better nutrition labels and strategic pricing really impact on people's behaviour and food choices," Dr Ni Mhurchu explains.
The project will assess four methods of improving population diets, including:
- Simple front-of-pack nutrition labels
- Policies to make healthy foods cheaper and unhealthy foods more expensive
- Changing the make-up of food to reduce salt, saturated fat and sugar
- Restricting food marketing to children.
Innovative technologies will be used to test interventions and measure their effect on diet and long-term health.
Findings from the research will inform policies on the most effective and cost-effective ways to improve population diets and health.
For more information on the HRC’s funding investments for 2013, visit: http://hrc.govt.nz/news-and-publications/news-media#$24.8m-awarded-to-top-research-programmes