Availability of healthy food in low socioeconomic and deprived areas
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: Low socioeconomic and deprived areas have been associated with increased health problems such as obesity. Previous research has linked deprived areas with increased exposure to unhealthy or energy-dense foods on the checkouts in these areas. Research in this area could provide a more clear explanation of the inequalities of health between areas of different socioeconomic status. Method: Supermarket and smaller food store checkouts were audited in Cardiff for the levels of exposure and availability of “less healthy” foods. This included examining foods that were at child height and if they had any price promotions. Results: From the 14 food stores audited, 100% of these had food or drinks displayed around the checkouts without any chance of avoiding these products. The high majority of food items displayed in the checkout areas were classified as “less healthy” across both high and low socioeconomic areas. The proportion of the food or drink displayed that was classified as “less healthy” was higher in low socioeconomic areas than high socioeconomic areas and was statistically significant. The proportion of “less healthy” food products with a price promotion was larger in high socioeconomic areas than in low socioeconomic areas which was statistically significant. The proportion of “healthy” food products with a price promotion was also larger in high socioeconomic areas than in low socioeconomic areas. Conclusions: This study concludes that large proportions of the food displayed in the checkout areas across both low socioeconomic areas and high socioeconomic areas is “less healthy” and children are exposed to a large majority of “less healthy” foods in the checkout areas. These selling practices used by food retailers could be contributing towards the inequalities in health between low income and high income consumers by influencing the purchasing behaviours and eating behaviours of their consumers and should take more responsibility for encouraging healthy eating.
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