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Developing a timeline for evaluating public health nutrition policy interventions: what are the outcomes and when should we expect to see them?

Macdiarmid, Jennie I.; Loe, Jennifer; Douglas, Flora; Ludbrook, Anne; Comerford, Caroline; McNeill, Geraldine


Jennie I. Macdiarmid

Jennifer Loe

Anne Ludbrook

Caroline Comerford

Geraldine McNeill


Objective: To develop a timeline for evaluating public health nutrition policy interventions. Design: Concept mapping, a stakeholder-driven approach for developing an evaluation framework to estimate the ‘time to impact’ for policy interventions. The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 was used as the model to develop the evaluation timeline as it had typical characteristics of government policy. Concept mapping requires stakeholders to generate a list of the potential outcomes, sort and rate the outcomes. Multidimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster data analysis were used to develop an anticipated timeline to impact for the policy. Setting: United Kingdom. Subjects: One hundred and eleven stakeholders representing nutrition, public health, medicine, education and catering in a range of sectors: research, policy, local government, National Health Service and schools. Results: Eighty-five possible outcomes were identified and grouped into thirteen clusters describing higher-level themes (e.g. long-term health, food literacy, economics, behaviour, diet, education). Negative and unintended consequences were anticipated relatively soon after implementation of the policy, whereas positive outcomes (e.g. dietary changes, health benefits) were thought likely to take longer to emerge. Stakeholders responsible for implementing the legislation anticipated that it would take longer to observe changes than those from policy or research. Conclusions: Developing an anticipated timeline provides a realistic framework upon which to base an outcome evaluation for policy interventions and identifies positive and negative outcomes as well as considering possible unintended consequences. It offers benefit to both policy makers and researchers in mapping the progress expected towards long-term health goals and outcomes.


MACDIARMID, J., LOE, J., DOUGLAS, F., LUDBROOK, A., COMERFORD, C. and MCNEILL, G. 2011. Developing a timeline for evaluating public health nutrition policy interventions: what are the outcomes and when should we expect to see them? Public health nutrition [online], 14(4), pages 729-739. Available from;

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 21, 2010
Online Publication Date Aug 16, 2010
Publication Date Apr 30, 2011
Deposit Date Jul 9, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jul 9, 2021
Journal Public Health Nutrition
Print ISSN 1368-9800
Electronic ISSN 1475-2727
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 4
Pages 729-739
Keywords Evaluation; Schools; Policy; Nutrition
Public URL


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