1. This study found that subsidization and subsequent access to neighborhood supermarkets may help reduce risk of obesity in children.

2. Changes in risk of obesity was observed when children lived less than 0.5 miles from supermarkets.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Childhood obesity is a rising public health crisis, with a higher prevalence among youth living in neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic status. Previous studies have suggested that among the various possible determinants of this association, proximity to a supermarket and subsequent access to healthy food options may mitigate the risk of obesity. However, the results have not been conclusive.

This study examined the association between placement or renovation of 8 subsidized supermarkets in New York City (NYC), United States, and body mass index (BMI) measures in NYC public school students enrolled in Kindergarten through Grade 12. The study group consisted of 11,356 students residing within 0.5 mile of a subsidized supermarket and the control group consisted of 43,372 students residing in similar neighborhoods but more than 0.5 mile from a supermarket (matched to study group by gender, age, grade, race and ethnicity, and poverty status). Subsidized markets were within neighborhoods with low number of grocery stores per capita and high poverty and unemployment rates. The primary outcome was changes in BMI, which was measured using data from NYC public school’s annual fitness assessment within 12 months before a supermarket opened (pre-intervention) and between 3-12 months after supermarket opened (post-intervention).

Results demonstrated that in the study group, there was a significant decrease in BMI score between pre-intervention and post-intervention period compared to control group (-0.04). A statistically significant decrease in obesity likelihood was also observed. However, this study was limited due to the lack of food and dietary purchasing data, in addition to lack of data relating to fresh food products available at intervention supermarkets. Nonetheless, these results support further strategic work that incorporates subsidized establishment or renovation of supermarkets as a more comprehensive plan to decrease risk of obesity in children living in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Click to read the study in JAMA Pediatrics 

Image: PD

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