The state of diet-related NCD policies in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Tunisia and Vietnam: A comparative assessment that introduces a 'policy cube' approach

Kent Buse, Wafa Aftab, Sadika Akhter, Linh Bui Phuong, Haroun Chemli, Minakshi Dahal, Anam Feroz, Sayad Hofiani, Nousheen Akber Pradhan, Iqbal Anwar, Hajer Aounallah Skhiri, Jalila El Ati, Kim Bao Giang, Mahesh Puri, Bashir Noormal, Fauziah Rabbani, Sarah Hawkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


We assessed the technical content of sugar, salt and trans-fats policies in six countries in relation to the World Health Organization 'Best Buys' guidelines for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). National research teams identified policies and strategies related to promoting healthy diets and restricting unhealthy consumption, including national legislation, development plans and strategies and health sector-related policies and plans. We identified relevant text in relation to the issuing agency, overarching aims, goals, targets and timeframes, specific policy measures and actions, accountability systems, budgets, responsiveness to inequitable vulnerabilities across population groups (including gender) and human rights. We captured findings in a 'policy cube' incorporating three dimensions: policy comprehensiveness, political salience and effectiveness of means of implementation, and equity/rights. We compared diet-related NCD policies to human immunodeficiency virus policies in relation to rights, gender and health equity. All six countries have made high-level commitments to address NCDs, but dietary NCDs policies vary and tend to be underdeveloped in terms of the specificity of targets and means of achieving them. There is patchwork reference to internationally recognized, evidence-informed technical interventions and a tendency to focus on interventions that will encounter least resistance, e.g. behaviour change communication in contrast to addressing food reformulation, taxation, subsidies and promotion/marketing. Policies are frequently at the lower end of the authoritativeness spectrum and have few identified budgetary commitments or clear accountability mechanisms. Of concern is the limited recognition of equity and rights-based approaches. Healthy diet policies in these countries do not match the severity of the NCDs burden nor are they designed in such a way that government action will focus on the most critical dietary drivers and population groups at risk. We propose a series of recommendations to expand policy cubes in each of the countries by re-orienting diet-related policies so as to ensure healthy diets for all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-521
Number of pages19
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • NCDs
  • WHO Best Buys
  • accountability
  • authority
  • human rights
  • policy analysis


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