Erin Fitzharris University of Iowa-School of Public Health Susan Klein Iowa State University Extension Carol Voss Iowa Department of Public Health Fit for Life Program Summer 2008
The food environment has only recently been studied as an important contributor to the dietary decisions people make every day; decisions which ultimately impact both short- and long-term health outcomes. The built environment, or the surroundings we create for the places we live, work, shop, and so on, impacts the nutrition environment, which includes the external cues that influence one’s food choices and consumption (Sallis & Glanz, 2006). Generally, the nutrition environment in the majority of communities in the U.S. focuses on convenience, fast food, and large portion sizes and neglects fresh fruits and vegetables (2006). A nutrition environment conducive to healthy eating, where foods such as low-fat milk, fruits, vegetables, and whole grain bread are readily available at a local grocery or convenience store, is less likely to be found in lower-income communities (Frank et al., 2006; Glanz et al., 2007). Further, when healthy items are available, they are likely to cost more (Glanz et al., 2007). Therefore, one avenue for modifying eating behaviors is to change the nutrition environment in order to create an environment that is more conducive to healthy eating. A number of leading organizations in health and nutrition, including the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, the International Obesity Task Force, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “have identified environmental and policy interventions as the most promising strategies for creating population-wide improvements in eating, physical activity, and weight status” (Glanz et al., 2005 p.330).
However, before environmental interventions are undertaken, the nutrition environment must first be quantitatively assessed in... [continues]
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