The food environment in which people exercise food choices significantly impacts their dietary patterns. Policies that limit the availability, affordability, and access to unhealthy food while increasing that of healthier alternatives help build healthy food environments, which are required to address the double burden of malnutrition. This study aimed to assess the availability of food environment policies in Zambia.
The authors applied a two-step qualitative document analysis to identify policy content relating to healthy food environments from global and Zambia-specific nutrition-related policy documents. In the first step, global policy documents were analyzed to develop a reference point for globally recommended policies for healthy food environments. In the second step, Zambia’s nutrition-related policies were analyzed to identify content relating to healthy food environments. The identified policy content was then mapped against the global reference point to identify food environment policy gaps.
Their analysis of global policy recommendations identified five broad categories of policy provisions: information and education based; regulatory and legislative tools; strategies to promote production and access to healthy food production; social protection-based strategies and guiding principles for governments relating to multisectoral collaboration and governance. Their analysis found that Zambian Government policy documents in the health, agriculture, education, and national planning and development sectors have policy provisions for healthy food environments. While these policy provisions generally covered all five reference categories, we found policy gaps in the regulatory and legislative tools category relative to global recommendations.
Zambia’s food environment policy landscape must include globally recommended regulatory and legislative policy measures like restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children. Nutrition policy reforms are required to facilitate the introduction of regulatory and legislative policy measures that effectively address the double burden of malnutrition in Zambia.