Factors Influencing Fidelity to a Calorie Posting Policy in Public Hospitals: A Mixed Methods Study

Type Article

Journal Article


C. Kerins; C. Kelly; C. M. Reardon; C. Houghton; E. Toomey; C. B. Hayes; F. Geaney; I. J. Perry; J. McSharry; S. McHugh

Year of publication



Front Public Health







Background: Labelling menus with nutrition information has increasingly become an important obesity policy option. While much research to-date has focused on determining its effectiveness, few studies report the extent to which menu labelling is implemented as designed. The aim of this study was to explore factors influencing fidelity to a calorie posting policy in Irish acute public hospitals. Methods: A mixed methods sequential explanatory study design was employed, with a nested case study for the qualitative component. Quantitative data on implementation fidelity at hospitals were analysed first and informed case sampling in the follow-on qualitative phase. Maximum variation sampling was used to select four hospitals with high and low levels of implementation and variation in terms of geographic location, hospital size, complexity of care provided and hospital type. Data were collected using structured observations, unstructured non-participant observations and in-depth semi-structured interviews. The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research guided qualitative data collection and analysis. Using framework analysis, factors influencing implementation were identified. A triangulation protocol was used to integrate fidelity findings from multiple sources. Data on influencing factors and fidelity were then combined using joint displays for within and cross-case analysis. Results: Quantitative fidelity data showed seven hospitals were categorised as low implementers and 28 hospitals were high implementers of the policy. Across the four hospitals selected as cases, qualitative analysis revealed factors influencing implementation and fidelity were multiple, and operated independently and in combination. Factors were related to the internal hospital environment (e.g., leadership support, access to knowledge and information, perceived importance of calorie posting implementation), external hospital environment (e.g., national policy, monitoring), features of the calorie posting policy (e.g., availability of supporting materials), and the implementation process (e.g., engaging relevant stakeholders). Integrated analysis of fidelity indicated a pattern of partial adherence to the calorie posting policy across the four hospitals. Across all hospitals, there was a consistent pattern of low adherence to calorie posting across all menu items on sale, low adherence to calorie information displayed per standard portion or per meal, low adherence to standardised recipes/portions, and inaccurate calorie information. Conclusion: Efforts to maximise fidelity require multi-level, multi-component strategies in order to reduce or mitigate barriers and to leverage facilitators. Future research should examine the relative importance of calorie posting determinants and the association between implementation strategies and shifts in fidelity to intervention core components.