Rationale & Objectives – Food and nutrition policies were established in Australia following the first International Conference on Nutrition, 1992. What happens as a result of these policy statements and what is achieved is dependent upon the capacity of institutions and personnel to take policy action. Study Objective - Assess the food and nutrition policy and program capacity and actions of national, state and local level governments in Australia.
Methods – Semi-structured interviews (N = 56) with staff of key government departments, agencies and committees were undertaken, focussing on strategic institutional and individual policy actions. Food policy activities were determined by surveys and document analysis.
Results – Overall, capacity for policy action is limited. Implementation of specific policy statements (eg childhood obesity strategies) requires significant institutional and individual capacity. Such capacities vary considerable both across levels of government, and within the one level of government across the country. Institutional arrangements, professional experience and autonomy, and strategic individual policy actions are critical to effect policy implementation.
Conclusion - Governments have not been held accountable for real progress toward achieving public health food and nutrition goals. Specific strategies to increase institutional and individual capacities to engage in food and nutrition policy actions are recommended.