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Fast facts on fast food

The challenge: Conduct a rapid review on interventions that have helped people make healthier food choices

Partner: Ernst & Young

Year: 2015/16

More than 60 per cent of Australian adults are now overweight and half of them are obese. The National Heart Foundation of Australia had to do something. Its Victorian branch came up with a good idea – the Healthy Dining Victoria Program, to be implemented in pubs and clubs – but it needed evidence on whether these types of programs work.

What did we do?

We did a (very) rapid literature review on interventions that programs that promote healthy food choices worldwide.

The team included nine high-quality systematic reviews (in English) that focussed on behaviour in healthy populations and discovered: 

1: The strategy with the strongest evidence for reducing calorie consumption was the provision of health information, provided it’s paired with interpretive information.

2: Social norms, like modelling ideal healthy choices, could influence food intake, but the literature was of lower quality.

3: Reviews of studies that tried manipulating portion or cutlery size to influence intake were inconclusive or poor quality and interestingly, one review found that this strategy works less well on overweight people.

Conclusion

The rapid review concluded that meaningful menu labelling, perhaps combined with social modelling, could be a good place to start.

A combination of behaviour change interventions are needed, not a magic bullet.

For its part, the Heart Foundation used the review to work with chefs and venues in normalising healthier choices.

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Outcome

The National Heart Foundation said the Rapid Review, “Reinforced to Government that a combination of interventions are likely to provide the best outcome”, adding that it counterpointed the long-held ‘conventional wisdom’ around the effectiveness of crockery and cutlery size and that it has “used this challenge of conventional wisdom in subsequent campaign bids”.

It also said, “The evidence around establishing new social models/norms is one of the interventions we would be keen to try”.

We hope (with all our hearts) these interventions work.

The slide show is here. Trailer below.