Foodscapes of southern Ontario: Neighbourhood deprivation and access to healthy and unhealthy food retail
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OBJECTIVES: We examined whether access to retail sources of healthy and unhealthy food varies according to level of neighbourhood material deprivation in three Ontario regions and whether urban form characteristics help to explain any such variations. METHODS: Food retail (FR) outlets were identified from a commercial database for 804 urban neighbourhoods in Toronto, Brampton/Mississauga and Hamilton, Ontario. The median number of healthy and unhealthy FR outlets and percentage of outlets that were unhealthy were derived using 720-metre network buffers based on dissemination blocks and aggregated up to neighbourhood level (census tract). The 2006 Canadian Census was used to derive a composite index of material deprivation and three urban form measures related to zoning and urbanization. Multivariate regression models assessed the association between material deprivation, urban form and each measure of FR access. RESULTS: Compared with the least deprived areas, the most materially deprived neighbourhoods had 2 to 4 times more healthy and unhealthy FR outlets within 720 metres (~ a 10-minute walk) of where most people lived, with the exception of Toronto, where unhealthy FR was more plentiful in less deprived areas. Urban form measures attenuated these associations for Brampton/Mississauga and Hamilton more so than for Toronto. The percentage of unhealthy outlets was generally unrelated to level of neighbourhood deprivation or urban form characteristics. CONCLUSION: More deprived neighbourhoods had greater access to both healthy and unhealthy FR outlets, with some variation across study regions. Plentiful access to local retail sources of unhealthy food suggests a possible point of intervention for healthy public policy.
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