Fostering the Catalyst Role of Government in Advancing Healthy Food Environments

Document Type : Perspective


1 School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada

2 McGill Centre for the Convergence for Health and Economics, McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada

3 Institut national de sante publique, Québec, QC, Canada

4 Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC, USA

5 Pan American Health Organisation, Washington, DC, USA

6 McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada


Effective approaches to non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention require intersectoral action targeting health and engaging government, industry, and society. There is an ongoing vigorous exploration of the most effective and appropriate role of government in intersectoral partnerships. This debate is particularly pronounced with regards to the role of government in controlling unhealthy foods and promoting healthy food environments. Given that food environments are a key determinant of health, and the commercial sector is a key player in shaping such environments (eg, restaurants, grocery stores), the relationship between government and the commercial sector is of primary relevance. The principal controversy at the heart of this relationship pertains to the potential influence of commercial enterprises on public institutions. We propose that a clear distinction between the regulatory and catalyst roles of government is necessary when considering the nature of the relationship between government and the commercial food sector. We introduce a typology of three catalyst roles for government to foster healthy food environments with the commercial sector and suggest that a richer understanding of the contrasting roles of government is needed when considering approaches NCD prevention via healthy food environments.


Main Subjects

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