International recognition for Deakin researcher

07 December 2011

Research Fellow Vivica Kraak hits the American Top 20 for most influential health research article.

A paper by Deakin University Research Fellow, Vivica Kraak, has been rated among the top 20 list of the most influential health research articles in America.

The rating was announced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RJWF) based in Princeton, New Jersey—the largest private philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care in the United States.

Every year, RWJF asks the public - including their subscribers and followers on Twitter and other social networks - to select 20 articles based on their research approach and popularity, determined by the number of visits each article received since it was published online.

The Foundation coordinates a nationwide vote among academics and practitioners to select the top five research articles for 2011 that have had the most influence on the field of health policy and practice.

“This is quite an honour and a surprise,” Kraak said.

Kraak and her co-authors at the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University, reviewed 117 published articles, reports and media stories to evaluate the US industry progress to market a healthful diet to American children and adolescents over a five-year period, from December 2005 to January 2011.

Their paper, published in the September 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that restaurants, entertainment companies and food and beverage industry trade groups have made only limited progress to market healthier foods and beverages to children and adolescents between 2005 and early 2011.

Due to the global nature of the obesity pandemic, these findings will resonate in Australia, particularly following the Gillard government’s recent decision to reject traffic light labelling before the December 9th meeting of the Australia’s food and health ministers.

The Australian consumers’ watchdog organization, Choice, released research in November 2011 that found consumers are confused by the percentage Daily Intake Guidelines supported by industry, which prevents consumers from making healthy choices quickly and easily in food retail stores. Traffic light labelling could help Australian consumers identify healthier food and beverage products.

“Despite some recent pledges and promising actions in the US, private-sector companies have not applied their full range of marketing resources and creativity to promote a healthy diet to American children and adolescents,” said Kraak, who works at Deakin’s Population Health Strategic Research Centre.

“The food and beverage, entertainment and restaurant industries could do much more collectively to address the obesity problem among children and adolescents.”

Kraak and her colleagues suggested several actions that industry could take to accelerate progress to promote a healthful diet.

These include:

  • using a broad range of marketing communication tools to promote healthier food, beverage and meal choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • strengthening industry self-regulatory programs and expanding pledges to protect adolescents
  • supporting clear and consistent product labelling and using truthful and non-misleading health claims on products; and funding independent evaluations of their collective efforts.

This is the first article related to Kraak's PhD work.

The second article evaluates progress made by the U.S. government, educational leaders and schools to promote a healthful diet to American children and adolescents that will be published in the March 2012 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“One flow on from the American research is the need to conduct similar policy-relevant evaluation research in Australia, particularly following that decision by the Federal Government not to proceed with the traffic light labelling," Kraak said.

RWJF’s mission is focused on improving the health and health care of all Americans. The Foundation has committed $500 million over eight years to reverse the U.S. childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. It has about $7.5 billion in assets, generating grants approaching $400 million a year to address the nation’s most complex health and health care issues. 

Research Fellow Vivica Kraak The food and beverage, entertainment and restaurant industries could do much more collectively to address the obesity problem among children and adolescents, says Research Fellow Vivica Kraak.

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