Deprivation and healthy food access, cost and availability

Deprivation and healthy food access, cost and availability: a cross-sectional study

Williamson et al., JHND Early View unknown-2

Background

Food access, cost and availability have been identified as determinants of dietary choice. It has been suggested that these are socio-economically patterned; however, the evidence is inconclusive. The present study investigated whether differences exist with respect to healthy food access, cost and availability between areas of contrasting deprivation.

Methods

An ecological, cross-sectional study was conducted in two of the most and two of the least deprived wards in Plymouth. Food retail outlets (FROs) (n = 38) were identified and mapped using Geographic Information Systems to assess ‘physical access’, by foot, to food retail provision. Healthy food basket (HFB) surveys were conducted (n = 32) to compare the cost and availability of 28 healthy food items between the more and less deprived areas.

Results

Areas of poor access to food retail provision were identified in both study areas, with a higher number of households in the more-deprived areas being affected than in the less-deprived areas, after accounting for car ownership levels. Median [IQR] HFB availability was lower in more-deprived than the less-deprived areas (48%, [39-71%] vs. 75%, [68-82%]; P=0.003), and in convenience stores than supermarkets (54%, [43-72%] vs. 78%, [72-96%]; P=0.001). Descriptive summaries revealed negligible differences in total median HFB cost between the more-deprived and less-deprived areas (£55.97 versus £55.94) and a larger cost difference between convenience stores and supermarkets (£62.39 versus £44.25).

Conclusions

Differences were found with respect to healthy food access, cost and availability in areas of contrasting deprivation. These appeared to be related to FRO type rather than deprivation alone.

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