Skip to main content

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Knowledge Gateway

A reference point for public health policy makers with reliable, independent and up-to date information on topics related to promotion of health and well-being.

Page | Last updated: 08 Apr 2021

Policy recommendations addressing inequalities in diet and physical activity

Examples of policy recommendations addressing inequalities in diet and physical activity

Restrict or eliminate choice

  • 'Restrict access to less healthy foods and sweets on school premises' (universal intervention, applied to all SES strata).
  • Encourage urban policy-makers to limit the density of fast food outlets and restaurants in disadvantaged areas and around schools.

Guide choice through (dis)incentives

  • 'Ensure welfare payments in vouchers or in kind include healthy food (e.g. France’s fruit and vegetable vouchers)'.
  • Consider granting free entry to the local swimming pools and other recreational facilities for residents in low-income suburbs

Guide choice through changing default

  • 'Increasing antenatal care attendance for socially deprived and young women by using participatory methods to address their needs and perceptions' to tackle inequalities in obesity from early on.
  • 'Encourage production of vegetables and fruit, and allocate surplus to school schemes or low income groups'.
  • 'Take into account that breastfeeding support programmes specially geared to obese women can be effective in low-income groups, and cash payments can increase participation'.
  • Provide free or subsidized nutritious meals (including breakfasts), along with vegetables and fruit in schools and early childhood centres (universal intervention, applied to all SES strata).
  • 'Implement targeted measures to make participation in physical activity more attractive to girls in schools', paying special attention to overweight adolescent girls, and addressing their self-esteem.
  • 'Work with specific ethnic or immigrant groups to address barriers to physical activity in women'.
  • Encourage policies to provide free and safe access to recreation facilities, especially in disadvantaged communities (e.g. using community halls, schools and churches).
  • Implement urban planning policies to enable safe recreational and transport-related walking and cycling across the life course (adequate lighting, footpaths and cycle ways), with particular care to deprived and/or unsafe neighbourhoods.
  • Foster promotion of urban food initiatives, particularly in low-income areas (e.g. farmers’ markets, mobile vans selling fruit and vegetables, grocery collectives and community gardens and cooperatives).
  • 'Encourage food manufacturers to make healthier reformulated products available at same price as energy-dense alternatives'.
  • 'Restrict marketing of high-fat, -sugar and -salt foods and sugar-sweetened beverages to children'.

Provide information

  • Consider that consumers with low numeracy or literacy skills may be more receptive to pictograms/pictures or traffic-light labelling, rather than to detailed numerical nutritional information on food labels.
  • 'Increase breastfeeding education, breastfeeding promotion packs, skilled professional support and early mother–infant bonding in order to help to increase breastfeeding initiation rates for low-income obese mothers'.
  • 'Deliver services (including dietary and physical activity counselling) in community settings (e.g. churches)'.
  • Employ peer mediators with diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, to provide counselling services and to facilitate mother-to-mother support groups.


  • A system of monitoring and evaluation is needed to measure obesity levels in different SES groups, social determinants of obesity, and relative success of policies and interventions.