PIRE Publication - Simulation modeling of policies directed at youth sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

Childhood obesity is a significant public health problem requiring innovative solutions. While recent reviews indicate that some policies show promise, there is a lack of information regarding which policies, and policy combinations, work best. Low-nutrition, energy-dense foods and beverages such as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) have been identified as a major contributor to the problem. The purpose of this paper is to use simulation modeling to show how changes in three categories of SSB policies-school nutrition, school-based education, and taxes-impact SSB and other food consumption. The model shows that policies directed at SSBs, particularly tax hikes, could lead to substantial reductions in the number of calories consumed by youth. The estimates, however, are subject to a high degree of uncertainty. Estimates from school-based nutrition and school-based education policies, while also helping to reduce caloric intake, generally show smaller effects than tax policies and considerable variation around parameter estimates for individual and combined policies. We conclude with a discussion of the limits of the model, and suggest where additional information is needed. Limitations notwithstanding, simulation modeling is a promising methodology that can help advance our understanding of policy effects, thereby helping policymakers to better formulate effective policies to reduce obesity prevalence and the associated social harms.

Levy, D. T.
Friend, K. B.