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Increasing evidence links unhealthy food environments with diet quality and overweight/obesity. Recent evidence has demonstrated that relative food environment measures outperform absolute measures. Few studies have examined the interplay between these two measures. We examined the separate and combined effects of the absolute and relative densities of unhealthy food outlets within 1600 m buffers around elementary schools on children’s diet- and weight-related outcomes.
This is a cross-sectional study of 812 children from thirty-nine schools. The Youth Healthy Eating Index (Y-HEI) and daily vegetables and fruit servings were derived from the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire for Children and Youth. Measured heights and weights determined BMI Z-scores. Food outlets were ranked as healthy, somewhat healthy and unhealthy according to provincial paediatric nutrition guidelines. Multilevel mixed-effects regression models were used to assess the effect of absolute (number) and relative (proportion) densities of unhealthy food outlets within 1600 m around schools on diet quality and weight status.
Two urban centres in the province of Alberta, Canada.
Grade 5 students (10–11 years).
For children attending schools with a higher absolute number (36+) of unhealthy food outlets within 1600 m, every 10 % increase in the proportion of unhealthy food outlets was associated with 4·1 lower Y-HEI score and 0·9 fewer daily vegetables and fruit.
Children exposed to a higher relative density of unhealthy food outlets around a school had lower diet quality, specifically in areas where the absolute density of unhealthy food outlets was also high.
In 2014, a Nutrition Report Card (NRC) was developed as a sustainable, low-cost framework to assess the healthfulness of children’s food environments and highlight action to support healthy eating. We summarise our experiences in producing, disseminating, evaluating and refining an annual NRC in a Canadian province from 2015 to 2019.
To produce the NRC, children’s food environment indicator data are collected, analyzed and compiled for consensus grading by an Expert Working Group of researchers and practitioners. Knowledge translation activities are tailored annually to the needs of target audiences: researchers, practitioners, policymakers and the public. Evaluation of reach is conducted through diverse strategies, including tracking media coverage and website traffic. Assessment of impact on diets and health outcomes is planned.
The grading process has facilitated refining the NRC to enhance its relevance and utility as a tool for its target audiences. Its public release consistently captures media interest and policymakers’ attention. The importance of partnerships in revealing data sources and in strategising to enhance policy approaches to improve food environments is apparent. The NRC has benchmarked progress and stimulated dialogue regarding healthy food environments for children.
The NRC may help to foster a supportive climate for improving the quality of children’s food environments. As an engaging and accessible document, the NRC represents a key mechanism for collating data related to children’s food environments and ensuring it reaches the audiences best positioned to use it. Efforts are underway to expand the NRC across Canada.
To assess and compare the favourability of healthy public policy options to promote healthy eating from the perspective of members of the general public and policy influencers in two Canadian provinces.
The Chronic Disease Prevention Survey, administered in 2016, required participants to rank their level of support for different evidence-based policy options to promote healthy eating at the population level. Pearson’s χ2 significance testing was used to compare support between groups for each policy option and results were interpreted using the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ intervention ladder framework.
Alberta and Québec, Canada.
Members of the general public (n 2400) and policy influencers (n 302) in Alberta and Québec.
General public and policy influencer survey respondents were more supportive of healthy eating policies if they were less intrusive on individual autonomy. However, in comparing levels of support between groups, we found policy influencers indicated significantly stronger support overall for healthy eating policy options. We also found that policy influencers in Québec tended to show more support for more restrictive policy options than their counterparts from Alberta.
These results suggest that additional knowledge brokering may be required to increase support for more intrusive yet impactful evidence-based policy interventions; and that the overall lower levels of support among members of the public may impede policy influencers from taking action on policies to promote healthy eating.
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