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Can policy ameliorate socioeconomic inequities in obesity and obesity-related behaviours? A systematic review of the impact of universal policies on adults and children

03 Aug 2016


This systematic review examined the impact of universal policies on socioeconomic inequities in obesity, dietary and physical activity behaviours among adults and children. PRISMA-Equity guidelines were followed. Database searches spanned from 2004 to August 2015. Eligible studies assessed the impact of universal policies on anthropometric, dietary or physical activity-related outcomes in adults or children according to socioeconomic position. Thirty-six studies were included. Policies were classified as agentic, agento-structural or structural, and their impact on inequities was rated as positive, neutral, negative or mixed according to the dominant associations observed. Most policies had neutral impacts on obesity-related inequities regardless of whether they were agentic (60% neutral), agento-structural (68% neutral) or structural (67% neutral). The proportion of positive impacts was similar across policy types (10% agentic, 18% agento-structural and 11% structural), with some differences for negative impacts (30% agentic, 14% agento-structural and 22% structural). The majority of associations remained neutral when stratified by participant population, implementation level and socioeconomic position measures and by anthropometric and behavioural outcomes. Fiscal measures had consistently neutral or positive impacts on inequities. Findings suggest an important role for policy in addressing obesity in an equitable manner and strengthen the case for implementing a broad complement of policies spanning the agency-structure continuum.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Obesity Reviews

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