Research question:  How can evidence-informed policy development and implementation be enhanced and sustained?

Research team: Colin Bell (Stream 2 Lead), Monica Bensberg, Brydie Clarke, Jeremiah Coriakula, Catherine Latu, Marj Moodie, Sirinya Pulkherd, Gade Waqa

Institutions: Deakin University, Fiji National University



  • Support for the establishment of a Policy Unit within the Ministry of Health and Human Services, Fiji. While the stream cannot claim credit for establishing the Unit, the policy briefs and research outputs from the stream highlighted the need for a Unit and we were able to support the Unit with evidence for decision-making and guidance on food policy process.
  • A user-friendly Fiji Food-related policy consultation guide to enhance consultation to improve and facilitate whole-of-government engagement in developing evidence-based food-related policy.
  • Development of evidence to inform food related policy making in Tonga and Fiji. New NCD related policies have been introduced in both countries during the period of the CRE.
  • PhD student placements within Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS): This gave PhD students deeper insight into policy processes, and ensured active knowledge exchange throughout their candidatures.


Key findings

  • Leadership, the political environment and collaboration were found to be major influences on policy implementation in Fiji and Tonga. The need for a whole-of-government response to using and sharing evidence and a systems-based strategy to food-related policy-making was identified, as well as political and technical support for ensuring data availability and integrity.
  • Generally, the simpler the nature of the policy being implemented, the easier its passage through the political process. The introduction of palm-oil import duty in Fiji was facilitated by stakeholder awareness of the health implications of palm oil consumption. Awareness of the global and national NCD epidemic and a national strategic NCD plan for addressing the epidemic set the stage for some world-leading fiscal policies in Tonga.
  • Various forms of evidence are used within obesity prevention policy development processes in Victoria. Information regarding both general and specific policy problems, as well as evidence of likely policy effectiveness and technical feasibility are particularly important. However, evidence is not necessarily sufficient, in isolation, for policy change.
  • Obesity prevention policy development processes are complex, with multiple factors identified as influential. A wide range of different stakeholder groups influence the progress of policies, reflecting the need for public health advocates to consider wider stakeholder influences than just the food industry. Whole-of-government approaches required for many recommended obesity prevention measures, coupled with hierarchical institutional norms, mean that decision-making processes are highly complex, increasing the time and effort required for policy change. Policy brokers within government need a wide breadth of political capacities and capabilities to formulate clear policy proposals and overcome political challenges to progress obesity prevention policy change.