Researchers identify evidence-based public health interventions for policy makers

August 20, 2012

Government policies that make healthy foods more affordable, improved sidewalk, street and land-use design to encourage physical activity, and bans on public, workplace or residence smoking are among 43 effective public health strategies identified in an American Heart Association statement.

The statement is being published in , an American Heart Association journal, and is based on researchers reviewing and grading more than 1,000 international studies of diet, and anti-tobacco interventions.

"Policy makers should now gather together and say, 'These are the things that work – let's implement many right away, and the rest as soon as possible,'" said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., chair of the statement writing group. "We have compiled an evidence-based menu of effective interventions for policy makers, stakeholders and the public based on the results of numerous scientific studies."

Examples of successful interventions include:

  • School and workplace interventions, such as school garden programs, increased availability and types of playground spaces and equipment, structured physical activity breaks during class or work hours and comprehensive wellness programs.
  • Economic incentives to make healthy foods more affordable, strategies to discourage consumption of less healthy foods, higher tobacco taxes to reduce use and funding for prevention programs.
  • Direct mandates and restrictions that limit certain nutrients in foods (e.g., salt, trans fat), restrictions on advertising and marketing of foods/drinks to children and restrictions on public, workplace or residential smoking.
  • Local environmental changes, such as better access to supermarkets near homes, walking-friendly neighborhoods, better integration of residential, school, business, and public areas and greater access to recreational sites.
  • Media and education campaigns with sustained and focused messages to increase eating specific healthy foods or to reduce smoking.
In addition to identifying the 43 evidence-based interventions in these six categories, the researchers also identified several that were either ineffective or needed more study.

For example, there isn't enough research to conclude whether nutritional labeling or icons on food packages and menus — widely used or being considered in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and India — encourages healthier eating. Also, there was not strong evidence that local accessibility to fast food restaurants or small convenience stores negatively affected dietary habits or weight.

"As a society, we must implement evidence-based, cost-effective public health interventions without delay — we now know they work. New initiatives and partnerships are needed to translate this knowledge into action," said Mozaffarian, who is also co-director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology and associate professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass.

Less than one percent of Americans meet the criteria for ideal cardiovascular health, and poor , sedentary lifestyles and use are the leading causes of preventable disease.

Explore further: Heart disease prevention -- a good investment for individuals, communities

Related Stories

Heart disease prevention -- a good investment for individuals, communities

July 25, 2011
Preventing heart disease before it starts is a good long-term investment in the nation's health, according to a new policy statement from the American Heart Association.

People in neighborhoods with healthy features have better heart health

March 14, 2012
If you live in neighborhoods with access to grocery stores, healthy food, parks and a pleasant walking environment, you're more likely to be in ideal cardiovascular health.

Government-led efforts targeting eating habits of children needed to curb worldwide obesity epidemic

August 26, 2011
The global obesity epidemic has been escalating for decades, yet long-term prevention efforts have barely begun and are inadequate, according to a new paper from international public health experts published in the August ...

Updated American Cancer Society nutrition guidelines stress need for supportive environment

January 11, 2012
Updated guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention from the American Cancer Society stress the importance of creating social and physical environments that support healthy behaviors. The report includes ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.