Faced with increasing levels of overweight and obesity and non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, caused largely by unhealthy diets, policy-makers right across Europe are looking for solutions to reduce the cost burden on health services and public budgets.
In response to the common health challenges across Europe, the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region agreed a common policy framework entitled Health 2020 with a goal to “significantly improve the health and well-being of populations, reduce health inequalities, strengthen public health and ensure people-centred health systems that are universal, equitable, sustainable and of high quality”.
A targeted European action plan has also been developed to address non-communicable diseases as the leading cause of death, disease and disability in Europe. WHO European region countries also signed up to the Vienna Declaration and the European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015– 2020, to advance food policy for the prevention of obesity and diet-related NCDs.
Now a new publication by the WHO “Using price policies to promote healthier diets” provides information on the use of the price policies to promote healthy diets, and outlines six short country case studies from WHO European Member States where price policies have been introduced.
Evidence-based studies show that price is one of the most important factors in determining consumer purchasing behaviour. This evidence indicates that food prices influence, to a certain degree, what and how much food people buy. Since price policies applied to food can affect consumer purchasing behaviour, price policies that address affordability and purchasing incentives for different foods are considered as a key policy tool.
Although in the past price policies proposals for healthy eating had not been considered as a key policy line, in recent years, several countries in Europe have introduced price policies with the objective of influencing consumers’ purchases and dietary intake.