Research / Healthy food and physical activity environments

HYPE (Healthy Policy Evaluation)

Evaluating the implementation and impact of the National Healthy Food and Drink Policy

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Project Status: Completed Funding: $1,499,523 Timeframe: January 2020 – December 2023


What we are investigating

Take | Issue

Unhealthy diet is the leading preventable risk for poor health worldwide.  The National Healthy Food and Drink Policy was developed by nutrition and public health representatives from 20 New Zealand District Health Boards (DHBs) and the Ministry of Health. Although voluntary, the National Policy is recommended for use by DHBs and other public sector organisations.

Whāinga | Aim

We will evaluate the Policy to answer four key research questions:

  1. Is the National Policy being adopted by public sector institutions and, if so, are there differences in level of Policy implementation?
  2. Where the Policy has been implemented, what has its impact been?
  3. What resources are needed to support Policy implementation and maximise its adoption by public sector institutions?
  4. What are the equity implications of the Policy for Māori, Pasifika and low-income New Zealanders?

Huarahi I Whāia | Approach

The research team will audit the foods and drinks available for sale in all 20 New Zealand DHBs and two central government agencies that have adopted the Policy to date, analyse institutional food retail sales data, conduct surveys of staff and visitors at participating institutions, undertake interviews with food service managers and retailers, identify and test resources to support and enhance implementation, and assess the equity implications of the Policy. The results will provide direct evidence of the Policy's effectiveness as a health promotion tool, inform future improvements, and produce resources to enhance its implementation and impact.



Outcome | Putanga

  • The HYPE study found that eight of the 20 DHBs and one central government agency had adopted the voluntary National Healthy Food and Drink Policy.
  • No organisation met the criteria for alignment with the Policy, but organisations that adopted the Policy had healthier foods and drinks on average than those using their own organisational policy.
  • The study found that both the benefits and costs resulting from implementation of the Policy were likely to have impacted Māori and Pacific staff to a greater extent than non-Māori non-Pacific staff because they reported buying food onsite more frequently than other staff.

Next Steps | Te ara kei mua

  • The HYPE team concluded that a voluntary Policy was not effective in ensuring provision of healthy food and drink options in New Zealand health sector organisations, and recommended that a mandatory national policy be implemented. The team has assisted Te Whatu Ora to develop an updated policy.
  • An updated policy could be used in other New Zealand settings such as schools and workplaces.
  • A new nationwide Nutrition Survey is urgently needed, as nutrition research relies on accurate and up-to-date information on what New Zealanders are eating. The last adult nutrition survey was conducted in 2008/2009.

Research Products | Nga hua o te rangahau

  • The team produced several tools to enhance the implementation and impact of this Policy in the future, including a digital audit tool, a Healthy Kai Checker which allows food service managers and retailers to easily identify foods that meet the Policy criteria, and a customised reporting framework.

Research presentation: Healthy food environments
Healthier Lives Kōrero Tahi 2024: equity and beyond (13-14 February 2024)

YouTube video


Knowledge Exchange

Video | kōnae whakaata

Project Team

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