The increasing prevalence of obesity over the course of life is a global health challenge because of its strong and positive association with significant health problems such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and some cancers. The complex causes and drivers of obesity include genetic factors, social, ecological and political influences, food production and supply, and dietary patterns. Public health messages and government food and activity guidelines have little impact; the retail food environment has many low-priced, nutrient-poor, but energy-dense products and there is a gap between what an individual knows and what they do. Public health and education services need legislation to mandate supportive environments and promote food literacy. Two New Zealand case studies of proof-of-principle of positive change are described: Project Energize and Under 5 Energize as exemplars of school environment change, and the development of the Nothing Else™ healthier snack bar as an example of working with the food industry. Changes in food literacy alongside food supply will contribute in the long term to positive effects on the future prevalence of obesity and the onset of non-communicable disease. More cross-disciplinary translational research to inform how to improve the food supply and food literacy will improve the health and wellbeing of the economy and the population.
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