The community food environment and its association with diet, health or weight status in Australia: A systematic review with recommendations for future research

Alexia Bivoltsis, Hayley Christian, Gina L. Ambrosini, Paula Hooper, Claire E. Pulker, Lukar Thornton, Gina S.A. Trapp

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Issue addressed: This study systematically reviewed Australian literature to determine if an association exists between geospatial exposure to food outlets and diet, health or weight status. Recommendations for future research are provided. Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted in December 2021 using CINAHL Plus, PubMed and Web of Science databases. Data were extracted, as per the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Study quality was assessed using an eight-item checklist. A descriptive synthesis of study characteristics and findings was carried out, stratified via study outcomes. Results: Of the 36 included articles, the majority were from Victoria (n = 19), involving adult participants (n = 30) and cross-sectional in design (n = 27). Overall, associations were mainly null (nonsignificant) for diet (80%), weight status (75%) and health outcomes (90%). Significant findings were mixed with no positive trend with study quality. Conclusions: Six recommendations are suggested to address current knowledge gaps and limitations in the Australian evidence base: (1) Conduct research on different populations; (2) Employ robust study designs that can test the impact of change over time; (3) Improve the accuracy of food outlet data sources; (4) Improve food outlet geospatial exposure measures; (5) Improve measurement of outcome variables; and (6) Incorporate theoretical models into study design and data analysis. So what?: Improving the quality and consistency of research will be critical to informing locally relevant policy. Despite the present limitations in the evidence base, it is reasonable to assume that decisions to purchase and consume food are driven by availability and access. Thus, policy and planning aimed at improving the overall “healthiness” of the community food environment by increasing access to healthy food outlets is warranted to ensure that healthy options are easier choice for all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-365
Number of pages38
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Volume34
Issue number2
Early online dateNov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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