Local health initiative promoted globally

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The Eat Well @ IGA initiative developed in Greater Bendigo and now operating in various supermarkets throughout Victoria is having a global impact.

City of Greater Bendigo Research and Evaluation Officer Amy Brown said the project is a collaboration between the City, Deakin University, various IGA stores and VicHealth that uses labelling and signage to encourage customers to buy healthier food and drinks. It involves adding health star ratings to shelf tags for the healthiest products in each shopping category and is supported by signage promoting healthy choices throughout the stores.

“This application of the Australian Government’s Health Star Rating system is innovative and is helping customers make healthier food and drink choices. If this model is adopted by supermarkets such as IGA at a state or national level, it could help them increase their nutrition policy ratings, as reported in Deakin University’s Inside Our Supermarkets Report, highlighted in the media earlier this week,” Ms Brown said.

“The research, funded by an NHMRC Partnership Project Grant, is being conducted in controlled trials in IGA supermarkets across Victoria, including many of Greater Bendigo’s IGA stores, over a period of 2 years.”

The initiative was recently promoted by Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre researcher Dr Adrian Cameron to a global audience as part of a recent international research trip.

In addition to meeting with other interested researchers, Dr Cameron presented seminars on the potential for supermarkets to be involved in obesity prevention at Cambridge University and Southampton University (UK) and Mahidol University in Thailand.

Dr Cameron also presented a seminar on the initiative to the full nutrition team at the World Health Organisation in Geneva, a rare and highly sought after opportunity.

“The World Health Organisation was extremely interested, and keen to focus on food environments given they have just begun the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016–2025,” Dr Cameron said.

“Meetings with the federal government Food and Drug Administration in Thailand and Myanmar were also ideal opportunities to promote the prevention model developed by Eat Well @ IGA to key decision makers.

“It is great to see our work having such a global impact, with Greater Bendigo’s local leadership and action being recognised as achieving international sustainable development goal outcomes, both in developed and developing countries.

“In developing countries such as Myanmar, this type of work is particularly important – with economies rapidly opening up and increasing commercialisation, there is an urgent need for public health prevention policies to protect the health of these populations. We are all excited about where this world-leading work might lead.”

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