News / Food Poverty

New parliamentary briefing on diet-related health inequalities

Sustain has contributed to a new briefing on diet and poor health, in which parliamentary researchers set out the profound impact of poor diets on health, as well as the need for systemic solutions over individual behaviour change. 

A parliamentary research team has published an advisory paper on the impact of poor diet on health. The paper outlines the causal link between poor diet and health inequalities, whilst recognising that people experiencing other disadvantages including disability, mental ill-health or low income are most at risk of diet-related health problems. 

The paper states that "inequalities in diets contribute to overall inequalities in health. Improved diets can improve population-wide health and reduce wider health inequalities."

Sustain spoke to the researchers, drawing attention to the need for a whole food system approach to tackling these problems, as well as cash-based and universal support for those most in need, for example reintroducing the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, or introducing universal provision of free school meals. We also emphasised the need for national government and local authorities to work in genuine partnership with communities, including those in poverty, to design solutions at all scales. 

The report concluded that:

"The consensus among a range of researchers is that strategies are currently insufficient to improve population health and reach those most affected by inequalities. It is widely thought that changing the physical, economic, social and commercial environment through a range of interventions is required, rather than targeting actions at individual behaviour. This would require sustained and coordinated action in a long-term strategy. Planning and implementation of policies with the affected communities to reflect local needs and make use of existing infrastructure could be the most inclusive and effective approach in addressing inequalities."

Key points for effective reduction of health inequalities were identified as:

  • Cross-departmental approach, coordination, leadership, and accountability to address wider health determinants and to transform the food system with interventions at all levels.
  • Monitoring, evaluation, and ongoing adjustment of policies.
  • Collaboration and partnerships between local, regional and national public and private stakeholders and communities.
  • Population-wide approach with targeted income-focused support for the most vulnerable.

Published 14 Dec 2022

Food Poverty: Over 10 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. We’re working to change that through people-powered projects and campaigns that tackle the root causes of food poverty and ensure everyone has dignified access to healthy, affordable food.

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