Centre for Food Policy Research
  1. PhD students
Food Policy

Hannah Brinsden

PhD Work

Monitoring the food industry: the role of advocacy and the definition of the public good


  • BSc (Hons) Nutrition & Food Science, The University of Reading

Hannah is a Registered Public Health Nutritionist (RNutr) with a strong interest in public health nutrition and advocacy. She is Head of Advocacy & Public Affairs at the World Obesity Federation (2012-present), and previously worked as a Nutritionist an Project Officer at Consensus Action on Salt and Health (2009-2012) and as a volunteer for The Food Commission (2008).

The study

Hanna Brinsden NGOs play an important role in advocating for food policies which support public health; in defending the public interest against corporate influence, and; in holding governments and the private sector to account for their actions and inaction in promoting healthy food environments. However, while political theories attempts to explain policy change (or policy stability) in relation to the political process, a part of which includes advocacy, there is no good theoretical basis for advocacy itself, or a framework for measuring the impact and effectiveness of advocacy. This research aims to contribute to the knowledge base on advocacy with a specific focus on public health nutrition advocacy, as well as help guide civil society advocacy strategies to enable better protection of the public interest.

Through semi-structured interviews and document analysis Hannah will explore examples of public health advocacy taking place in the UK, by whom and with what impact. The research uses a series of case examples to underpin and explore these questions, including three different policies (salt reformulation, marketing restrictions and front-of-pack labelling) and five different NGOs (Consensus Action on Salt & Health, UK Health Forum, British Heart Foundation, Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign and Which?).

The research questions are:

  • What advocacy methods are being used by public health NGOs to address food and nutrition issues in the UK?
  • What conditions and factors support or hinder effective public health advocacy?
  • What are the measures of impact, effectiveness and success of public health advocacy?

An overview of the context of this research and some the themes being explored can be found in the following publication of the Food Research Collaboration: Brinsden, H. and Lang, T., 2015, An introduction to public health advocacy: reflections on theory and practice. 12 October 2015. Food Research Collaboration Policy Brief.

Why it matters to food policy

The food and nutrition policy landscape is subject to a large amount of lobbying and advocacy from both civil society organizations seeking to protect the public good and corporate actors protecting their own commercial interests, as well political bias and neoliberal ideals. Frequently, civil society finds itself on the back foot struggling to ensure that policies and practices relating to food and nutrition are in the public's interest, clearly shown by the rising rates of obesity and NCDs, and slow government progress to implement the regulatory policy packages being advocated for by civil society. This research seeks to critically assess civil society advocacy with the intention of identifying and better understanding what makes effective advocacy in order to support civil society and help them to better protect public health, defend against corporate lobby and ensure healthier food systems.

Research interests

Obesity and non-communicable diseases; nutrition; commercial determinants of health; food environments; advocacy; conflicts of interest; food system.


  • Brinsden, H. Measuring the impact of public health advocacy to improve obesogenic food environments. Obesity Reviews, 2016, 17 (S2), 188-189
  • Brinsden, H. Advocacy on front of pack nutrition labelling in the UK — what can we learn? Obesity Reviews, 2016, 17 (S2), 188
  • Kraak V, Vandevijvere S, Sacks G, Brinsden H et al. Progress achieved by the world health organization, member states, and other actors to restrict the marketing of high Fat, sugary and salty food and beverage products to children and teens globally. Obesity Reviews, 2016, 17 (S2), 187
  • Kraak V, Vandevijvere S, Sacks G, Brinsden H et al. Progress achieved by the WHO and Member States to implement Resolution WHA63.14 to reduce the impact of unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children and adolescents. WHO Bulletin, online first
  • Brinsden, H, Lang, T. An introduction to public health advocacy: reflections on theory and practice. Food Research Collaboration Policy Brief. 12 October 2015. London.
  • Brinsden, H, Lang, T. The Second International Conference on Nutrition – What next? Archives in Public Health, 2015, 73:42
  • Vandevijvere S, Sacks G, Brinsden H, Lobstein T, Swinburn B. INFORMAS. Measuring the drivers of obesity, disease, health, well-being. [Sick societies] World Nutrition March 2015, 6, 3, 184-201
  • Lobstein, T & H. Brinsden. Symposium report: the prevention of obesity and NCDs: challenges and opportunities for governments. Obesity Reviews, 2014. 15(8), 630-639
  • Schumann, N.L., H. Brinsden, T. Lobstein. A review of national health policies and professional guidelines on maternal obesity and weight gain in pregnancy. Clinical Obesity. 2014. 4(4), 197-208
  • He, FJ, H.C. Brinsden, G.A. MacGregor. UK population salt reduction: an experiment in public health. The Lancet. 2013. 382(S3), S43
  • Brinsden, H.C., T. Lobstein, J. Landon et al. Monitoring policy and actions on food environments: rationale and outline of the INFORMAS policy engagement and communication strategies. Obesity Reviews, 2013, 14(S1), 13–23
  • Lobstein, T, H. Brinsden, J. Landon, V. Kraak, A. Musicus and J. Macmullan (2013) Commentary: INFORMAS and advocacy for public health nutrition and obesity prevention. Obesity Reviews, 2013, 14 (S1), 150–156
  • Brinsden, H & T. Lobstein. Comparison of nutrient profiling schemes for restricting the marketing of food and drink to children. Pediatric Obesity, 2013, 8(4). 325-337
  • He, FJ, H.C. Brinsden, G.A. MacGregor. Salt reduction in the United Kingdom: a successful experiment in public health. Journal of Human Hypertension. 2014. 28(6):345-52
  • Brinsden, H.C., F.J. He, K. Jenner, G.A. Macgregor. Surveys of the salt content in UK bread: progress made and further reductions possible. BMJ Open, 2013, 3:e002936
  • Brinsden, H.C. & C.E. Farrand. Reducing salt; preventing stroke. Nutrition Bulletin, 2012, 37(1), 57-63