Government policies to improve food environments: A population and equity lens

Sanne Kartini Djojosoeparto

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


Over the past decades, the number of people with overweight and obesity has significantly increased. This rise is linked to a changing food environment that is now filled with cheap and high-calorie foods. As a result, we are increasingly tempted to make unhealthy food choices. Additionally, there are significant socioeconomic inequalities in diets between low and high socioeconomic groups. To promote healthier food consumption for the entire population, especially for those in low socioeconomic groups, government policies leading to a healthier food environment are crucial. Studies from this thesis, using the 'Healthy Food Environment Policy Index' (an international research tool), demonstrate that both the Dutch government and the European Union have implemented very few policy measures to create a healthy food environment. Experts who participated in these studies recommend the implementation of multiple universal, structural, preventive policy measures in both the Netherlands and in the European Union. These measures include banning the marketing of unhealthy foods targeted at children or imposing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Other studies from this thesis, based on theories and stakeholder interviews, indicate that such policy measures can contribute to reducing socioeconomic inequalities in diets. Furthermore, these policies should be aligned and combined with measures addressing other important determinants of dietary behavior, such as poverty. This is essential to shift the current food system, which leads to a high prevalence of overweight and obesity, towards a system focused on promoting public health.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • van Lenthe, Frank, Primary supervisor
  • Kamphuis, Carlijn, Supervisor
  • Poelman, Maartje, Co-supervisor, External person
Award date22 Sept 2023
Print ISBNs978-94-6469-436-9
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2023


  • Universal and structural prevention measures
  • overweight
  • obesity
  • population health
  • food choices
  • diets
  • food environments
  • governmental food environment policies
  • socioeconomic inequalities in diet and health
  • underlying determinants of dietary behavior


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