From fast food to fizzy drinks: CEDAR research showing how the physical and fiscal environments affect our food choice
CEDAR research has been generating important evidence to support policies aimed at improving the population’s diet. For example, in our towns and cities, reducing the growth of takeaway food outlets could support healthier eating and help reduce levels of obesity.
Our research is determining how food access has changed over time, how it is linked to socioeconomic status, and how it affects our diet and body weight. Our evidence is being cited in key guidance and strategy publications; we are providing evidence to directly support takeaway planning decisions; building relationships with public health and planning professionals; increasing public understanding through media work; and have produced the online Food environment assessment tool (Feat) – www.feat-tool.org.uk – to support those in planning and public health to create healthier food environments.
In the fiscal realm, all eyes are on the new UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy. CEDAR researchers have contributed to a growing evidence base about the harms of sugary drinks, as well as industry and public perceptions. With partners from Oxford and LSHTM, CEDAR is now leading a major natural experimental study to evaluate whether, how and for whom the new Soft Drinks Industry Levy has a health-effect.
The research is studying the impacts on reformulation, the processes by which the tax came about, as well as wider changes in public, political, societal and industry attitudes. CEDAR also contributed to an evaluation of Jamie Oliver’s 10p sugary drink restaurant charge; and is collaborating with researchers abroad to evaluate the impact of other sugar taxes, notably in Barbados.
A road to impact: engaging with the Department for Transport to support policy, develop careers and deliver online tools
CEDAR has developed a productive relationship with the Department for Transport (DfT), which has acknowledged its “clear impact on DfT’s cycling
Through Cambridge’s Centre for Science and Policy’s (CSaP) Policy Fellowship Programme we engaged with the Deputy Director for Sustainable Travel and Equalities Pauline Reeves, and Permanent Secretary Philip Rutnam. DfT policymakers have spoken at CEDAR events, and our researchers have shared our evidence at policy events and forums – including at a Policy Leaders Fellowship Roundtable on the future of cities, involving a number of Directors General, Permanent Secretaries and other senior UK policy leaders.
We were part of a CSaP/DfT organised ‘Policy Propellers’ professional development scheme, which seeks to help up-and-coming civil servants gain a better understanding of evidence use in policymaking.
Our relationship with DfT led to the commissioning of the Propensity to Cycle Tool – www.pct.bike – led by our Public Health Modelling programme in collaboration with Universities of Leeds and Westminster. This interactive web based tool, is being used by planners to prioritise where to invest to best realise uptake of cycling, and was highly commended in the Cycle Planning Awards 2015 and 2016. Public Health Modelling researchers have also developed improved active travel appraisal methods for the DfT’s transport analysis guidance (WebTAG).
In addition, we have provided evidence submissions to a range of parliamentary and guidance bodies, and developed relationships with local and regional government and other agencies in the UK and internationally.