Can we quantify the benefits of healthy food policies – Simon Capwell – Food Thinkers

Simon Capwell - Can we quantify the benefits of healthy food policies

This talk will focus on quantifying the potential benefits of healthy (and unhealthy) diets. The burden of non-communicable disease (NCD) is immense but eminently preventable. Poor diet is the biggest risk factor for NCDs, exceeding the combined effects of tobacco, alcohol and physical inactivity.

An effectiveness hierarchy is evident in policies to control tobacco, alcohol or promote healthy diets. Thus ”upstream” policy interventions are more powerful than “downstream” individual approaches. Population-wide prevention policies are powerful, rapid, equitable & cost-saving.

However, the crucial issue in NCD prevention is politics not science, particularly overcoming opposition from vested interests. Is that feasible? Public health can be proud of an impressive history of achievements- clean drinking water, safe food, sanitation, slavery abolition, smoke-free public spaces etc. These successes exemplify the support pathway from initial science to effective interventions, notably regulation & taxation. Today’s biggest public health issues include junk food, sugary drinks, tobacco, alcohol, poverty, and climate change. Are they so very different from past challenges?

About the speaker

Professor Simon Capewell trained in general, respiratory and cardiovascular medicine in Newcastle, Cardiff, and Oxford, then in public health in Edinburgh and Glasgow. He was appointed as the first Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in the University of Liverpool in 1999. Simon manages a research programme mainly involving cardiovascular disease (CVD) and food policy. Funding thus far totalling over £20 million, with over three hundred peer-reviewed papers, many in top journals.

His recent research includes programmes funded by MRC, NIH, NIHR, EU & BHF examining:

  • why CVD death rates have recently halved in the USA , UK, Poland & elsewhere, and why CVD rates are increasing in China and many other developing countries
  • the development of effective and cost-saving CVD prevention strategies: building on empirical evidence, policy analyses, and quantitative modelling in high, middle and low income countries.

Simon is President of the Society for Social Medicine, and Vice President (Policy) for the UK Faculty of Public Health. He is also a Trustee for the Faculty, for the UK Health Forum, and for Heart of Mersey, a large regional CVD primary prevention charity. He contributes to policy development and service work. He has recently chaired/participated in a dozen national /international policy and prevention committees, including Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (Obesity), British Heart Foundation (Prevention & Care), NICE (CVD prevention), UK Faculty of Public Health, European Society of Cardiology and WHO.

Simon also joined the FRC for a Food Bites to give us a snapshot snapshot of what the current issues in the food system are and what civil society organisations and academics could be doing to work towards solutions.

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