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Strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policy: lessons from a case study of food and nutrition

  • Jennifer Browne (a1), Deborah Gleeson (a1), Karen Adams (a2), Deanne Minniecon (a3) and Rick Hayes (a1)...



To examine key factors influencing the prioritisation of food and nutrition in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policy during 1996–2015.


A qualitative policy analysis case study was undertaken, combining document analysis with thematic analysis of key informant interviews.




Key actors involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policy between 1996 and 2015 (n 38).


Prioritisation of food and nutrition in policy reduced over time. Several factors which may have impeded the prioritisation of nutrition were identified. These included lack of cohesion among the community of nutritionists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and civil society actors advocating for nutrition; the absence of an institutional home for nutrition policy; and lack of consensus and a compelling policy narrative about how priority nutrition issues should be addressed. Political factors including ideology, dismantling of public health nutrition governance structures and missing the opportunities presented by ‘policy windows’ were also viewed as barriers to nutrition policy change. Finally, the complexity and multifaceted nature of nutrition as a policy problem and perceived lack of evidence-based solutions may also have constrained its prioritisation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policy.


Future advocacy should focus on embedding nutrition within holistic approaches to health and building a collective voice through advocacy coalitions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership. Strategic communication and seizing political opportunities may be as important as evidence for raising the priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues.


Corresponding author

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