Document Type : Original Article
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland
University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, India
Food systems affect nutritional and other health outcomes. Recent literature from India has described policy aspects addressing nutritional implications of specific foods (eg, fruits, vegetables, and trans-fats), and identified opportunities to tackle the double burden of malnutrition. This paper attempts to deepen the understanding on how health concerns and the role of the health sector are addressed across food systems policies in India.
This qualitative study used two approaches; namely (i) the framework method and (ii) manifest content analysis, to investigate national-level policy documents from relevant sectors (ie, food security, agriculture, biodiversity, food processing, trade, and waste management, besides health and nutrition). The documents were selected purposively. The textual data were coded and compared, from which themes were identified, described, and interpreted. Additionally, mentions of various health concerns and of the health ministry in the included documents were recorded and collated.
A total of 35 policy documents were included in the analysis. A variety of health concerns spanning nutritional, communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were mentioned. Undernutrition received specific attention even beyond nutrition policies. Only few policies mentioned NCDs, infectious diseases, and injuries. Governing and advisory bodies were instituted by 17 of the analysed policies (eg, food safety, agriculture, and food processing), and often included representation from the health ministry (9 of the 17 identified inter-ministerial bodies).
We found some evidence of concern for health, and inclusion of health ministry in food policy documents in India. The ongoing and planned intersectoral coordination to tackle undernutrition could inform actions to address other relevant but currently underappreciated concerns such as NCDs. Our study demonstrated a method for analysis of health consideration and intersectoral coordination in food policy documents, which could be applied to studies in other settings and policy domains.