Improving access to healthy food has little effect on diet

03/24/05

Editorial: Large scale food retail interventions and diet BMJ Volume 330 pp 683-4

Improving food shopping access for people living in deprived neighbourhoods has little effect on diet and health, says an editorial in this week's BMJ.

Ensuring communities have good access to healthy affordable food is one of the government's joined up strategies to improve public health and reduce health inequalities.

However, evidence to inform how, when, and where to reduce these inequalities is only now emerging, and uncertainty remains over whether large scale retail interventions actually work.

For instance, a recent study in Newcastle found that retail provision was not independently associated with diet. Another in Leeds found positive changes in fruit and vegetable consumption, while a similar study in Glasgow found little evidence for an overall effect.

Despite some study limitations, the authors suggest that overall, retail interventions may have either a small but important effect or no effect on diet and health.

"If new retail provision is to have an impact on diet and health, we need a multidimensional approach that also tackles food awareness, affordability, and acceptability in addition to retail change," they write.

"Changing access through improving retail provision alone may not have a substantial impact on diet and health. An approach that changes knowledge and access simultaneously may have a better chance of securing improvements in diet and health and a reduction in health inequalities," they conclude.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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