Opportunities to improve population health: possibilities for healthier food environments

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The recent Covid-19 pandemic highlighted stark social inequalities, notably around access to food, nutrition, and to green or blue space, i.e. outdoor spaces with vegetation and water). Consequently, obesity is socio-economically patterned by this inequality; and while the environmental drivers of obesity are widely acknowledged, there is currently little upstream intervention. We know that living with obesity contributes to increasing health inequalities, and places healthcare systems under huge strain. Our environment could broadly be described obesogenic, in the sense of supporting unhealthful eating patterns and sedentary behaviour. Evidence points to the existence of nearly 700 UK obesity policies, all of which have had little success. Obesity prevention and treatment has focused on educational and behavioural interventions targeted at individual consumers. A more sustainable approach would be to try and change the environments that promote less healthy eating and high energy intake as well as sedentary behaviour. Approaches which modify the environment have the potential to assist in the prevention of this complex condition. This review paper focuses on the role of wider food environments or foodscapes. While there is an imperfect evidence base relating to the role of the foodscape in terms of the obesity crisis, policy, practice, civic society and industry must work together and take action now, in areas where current evidence suggests change is required. Despite the current cost-of-living crisis, shaping the foodscape to better support healthful eating decisions has the potential to be a key aspect of a successful obesity prevention intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-271
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number3
Early online date17 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023
EventSummer Conference 2022: Food and Nutrition: pathways to a sustainable future - Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jul 202215 Jul 2022


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