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Food/media: eating, cooking, and provisioning in a digital world
Subscription sign in. Read latest edition. UK Edition. US Edition. Log in using your social network account. Please enter a valid password. Keep me logged in. Want an ad-free experience? Subscribe to Independent Premium. View offers. Environment Global warming: Data centres to consume three times as much energy in next decade, experts warn The Facebook server hall in the city of Lulea, Sweden. Download the new Indpendent Premium app Sharing the full story, not just the headlines Download now. Shape Created with Sketch. Pictures that show we are killing our planet Show all Pope Francis said a 'throwaway culture' was damaging the environment and the world's social fabric.
Comments Share your thoughts and debate the big issues. Join the discussion. Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines. Create a commenting name to join the debate Submit. Please try again, the name must be unique Only letters and numbers accepted. Loading comments Please try again, the name must be unique. Nutrition-sensitive policies are typically implemented outside of the health and food sectors. A wide range of social and economic policies have the potential to help reduce diet inequities by improving living and working conditions, increasing access to education, providing stronger income and social protection, and promoting healthy local food environments Friel et al.
However, rarely have they been explicitly evaluated for their impact on diets and their social distribution. Two examples discussed here are income and social protection, and trade policies. Brazil has been one of the few countries to reduce income inequities over the past two decades and simultaneously enjoyed improvements in health indicators, including nutrition-related indicators, partly through significant investment in education and through the use of a comprehensive social welfare program called Bolsa Familia Popay et al.
Similarly, the Mexican government introduced the successful Oportunidades —a government conditional cash transfer program, designed to target poverty by providing cash payments to families in exchange for regular school attendance, health clinic visits, and nutritional support Rivera et al. While these two programs have not looked at the impact on dietary inequities per se , their attention to underlying drivers of social inequities is an important part of the solution to improve dietary inequities Friel and Ford, Shifting how payments are used from various social protection programs, including cash transfers and public works schemes, away from harmful items such as processed foods toward healthier items such as fruits and vegetables is an attractive opportunity for making social protection healthy eating sensitive.
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Trade liberalization—the reductions in tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade—has led to greater amounts and types of food being imported into countries, which in turn can alter the nutritional quality, amount and price of food available, thus shaping food preferences and affecting diet-related health Hawkes et al. The observed nutrition transition in the Pacific Island countries is believed to have occurred partly because of increasing fat consumption from increased imports of margarine, butter, meat, chickens and canned meat Thow and Snowdon, An increasingly important aspect of trade policy has been investment liberalization, which aims to attract investment in manufacturing, retail and advertising by international companies Friel et al.
The link between trades and non-communicable diseases NCDs comes partly through the global diffusion of food products that are harmful to health enabled by greater foreign direct investment and penetration of transnational food corporations TNCs Labonte et al. These TNCs, especially supermarkets, influence eating habits through the products they choose to sell, the retail price, and the labeling and promotion of particular goods Hawkes, , Stuckler et al.
Prevailing cultural and societal norms around meals and cooking, food allocation within families and households, openness to new foods, valuing of thrift or displays of wealth and status in food purchasing, and social acceptability or desirability of body fat are important in shaping diet quality, and the social distribution of healthy eating behaviors Eertmans et al.
While many norms, values and traditions involving food have evolved over long periods of time, food industry actors are increasingly influential in shaping them. This is most visible through the influence of advertising in shaping food preferences, particularly those of children and young people who are overwhelmingly exposed to marketing of energy-dense, nutrient poor foods and beverages Kelly et al.
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In contrast, while there are examples of efforts from popular culture, including the rise of celebrity chefs, to challenging unhealthy eating norms, and promoting healthy ones, few published studies have explicitly reported on this area Smith, No actions were identified that explicitly targeted cultural and societal norms and values with the aim of improving equitable access to and consumption of a healthy diet.
An equity-focussed social determinants approach to healthy eating would ideally consider action that seeks to improve the inequities in the immediate conditions in which people are born, live, work and play, in addition to directly addressing food availability, accessibility and price in local food environments,. However, there appears to be no published evaluation of such actions. Most of the available intervention evidence at this level has focussed on changing individual behaviors in various settings, such as schools, workplaces, primary health-care centers, and community spaces CDC, , rather than on modifying the conditions of the setting itself, or the factors underlying them.
In Victoria, Australia, the Food for All Program funded interventions that delivered fresh food to the elderly, developed community gardens in low-income neighborhoods, and addressed transport issues in disadvantaged communities, which made fresh food more accessible for those involved VicHealth, While the Food for All program has not evaluated changes in healthy eating inequities, the positive impact on these determinants bodes well for positive effects on inequities in healthy eating.
Public transport schemes or fresh food delivery programs may improve access to healthy food among disadvantaged groups and therefore reduce inequities in diets.
One study in California found that a supermarket-sponsored shuttle program could be self-supporting in low-income areas in that region Cassady and Mohan, In addition to location and transport, improving housing space and quality, including ensuring adequate food storage, refrigeration and preparation space can improve diets among low-income groups Thompson et al. Interventions in retail food stores and supermarkets have shown mixed results Seymour et al.
Subsidies to local convenience stores in disadvantaged areas in Scotland allowed stores to stock more and better quality produce, particularly fruit and vegetables Gibbs and Christie, The Remote Indigenous Stores and Takeaways project in remote Australia saw some positive changes in store stocking practices, but little impact on sales of healthy choices, which may be related to the cost of healthy food and drink choices compared with less nutritious choices Queensland Health, The literature on the effectiveness of displaying nutritional information in fast food and chain restaurants on dietary inequities is mixed Swartz et al.
One study in the USA found that consumers who used the nutritional information made lower energy choices; however, these were more likely to be women, customers in the wealthiest neighborhoods and older customers Dumanovsky et al.
Educational institutions and centers are a promising setting for promoting healthy eating among all social groups Hawkes, Health promotion interventions in these settings typically use whole-of-school approaches, involving the integration of program goals into school curriculum and policies, changes in the school environment, and staff, family and community engagement. The direct provision of food through school meals programs hold much promise for reducing dietary inequities.
These have been shown to be effective in improving healthy eating for undernourished and often disadvantaged children Kristjansson et al. Studies on the provision of free or subsidized fruit and vegetables and garden-based nutrition programs in schools have shown that they may improve knowledge and diets and reduce inequities Howerton et al.
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Providing free fruit and vegetables along with nutrition education, increased consumption in schools in Norway Bere et al. Most early childhood and school-based interventions identified targeted the whole school population and did not report on equity impacts for different subgroups. The nature of employment and working conditions is a powerful social determinant of diet quality. Giving employees greater control over their work hours, adjusting shift-work schedules and reducing work-related sources of stress can positively influence diets by allowing more time and flexibility for healthy food shopping and preparation, and by increasing self-efficacy and control Bambra et al.
However, no published interventions measuring the impact of these strategies on diets or dietary inequities are available.
Related Consuming Interests: The Social Provision of Foods (Consumption and Space)
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