Determinants of Healthy Eating Among Low-income Canadians

Les déterminants de la saine alimentation chez les Canadiens à faible revenu

Abstract

This paper draws on four bodies of literature to consider the determinants of healthy eating for low-income Canadians: a) the social determinants of health; b) socio-economic gradients in diet; c) food security; and d) the sociology of food. Though there is a paucity of data for Canada, it is very likely that, as in other industrialized countries, there are socio-economic gradients in diet such that those who are better off consume healthier diets than those less well-to-do. The available evidence suggests that income affects food intake both directly and indirectly through the dispositions associated with particular social class locations. Thus, there may be both economic and cultural thresholds for some food groups or particular foods in food groups. Understanding these thresholds is especially important in addressing the issues facing those who are the most vulnerable among Canadians with low incomes: the food insecure. The literature reviewed suggests that improved nutrition for low-income Canadians may be difficult to achieve a) in isolation from other changes to improve their lives; b) without improvement in the nutrition of the general population of Canadians; and c) without some combination of these two changes. Four major areas of research need were identified: a) national data on socio-economic gradients in diet; b) sociological research on the interaction of income and class with other factors affecting food practices; c) sociological research on Canadian food norms and cultures; and d) research on the costs of healthy eating.

Résumé

Le présent article traite des déterminants de la saine alimentation chez les Canadiens à faible revenu en s’appuyant sur la documentation scientifique reliée à quatre sujets importants: a) les déterminants sociaux de la santé, b) les gradients socio-économiques de l’alimentation, c) la sécurité alimentaire et d) la sociologie des aliments. Bien qu’on observe actuellement une pénurie de données au Canada, il est fort probable que, tout comme dans les autres pays industrialisés, il existe des gradients socio-économiques de l’alimentation, à savoir que les personnes qui sont plus à l’aise financièrement ont une alimentation plus saine que les personnes qui le sont moins. À partir des données probantes disponibles, on peut supposer que le revenu influence la consommation alimentaire, à la fois directement et indirectement, en raison des circonstances entourant le fait d’occuper une certaine place dans l’échelle sociale. On suppose également l’existence de seuils, à la fois d’ordre économique et culturel, par rapport à certains groupes alimentaires ou aliments qui en font partie. Il est particulièrement important de comprendre le mode d’action de tels seuils si on veut résoudre les problèmes auxquels sont confrontés les personnes à faible revenu les plus vulnérables, à savoir celles qui souffrent d’insécurité alimentaire. Suite à la recherche bibliographique effectuée, on constate que les Canadiens à faible revenu éprouvent de la difficulté à améliorer leur alimentation en l’absence des conditions suivantes: a) une prise en compte simultanée des autres changements nécessaires à une amélioration de leur vie, b) une amélioration de l’alimentation des Canadiens et Canadiennes en général ou c) une combinaison de ces deux conditions. Nous avons identifié quatre principaux axes de recherche à explorer, à savoir: a) obtenir des données nationales sur les gradients socio-économiques de l’alimentation, b) mener des études sociologiques sur les interactions du revenu, de la classe sociale et de divers autres facteurs qui influencent les habitudes alimentaires, c) mener des études sociologiques sur les normes et cultures alimentaires au Canada et d) mener des études sur le coût d’une saine alimentation.

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Correspondence to Elaine M. Power Ph.D..

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Acknowledgements: I thank Susan Anstice and Sandra Morency for their capable assistance with this project, and Michelle Hooper and Sharon Kirkpatrick of Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion for their expert guidance and unending patience.

Remerciements: L’auteure tient à remercier Susan Anstice et Sandra Morency de leur précieuse collaboration à ce projet ainsi que Michelle Hooper et Sharon Kirkpatrick du Bureau de la politique et de la promotion de la nutrition de Santé Canada pour leurs judicieux conseils et leur grande patience.

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Power, E.M. Determinants of Healthy Eating Among Low-income Canadians. Can J Public Health 96, S42–S48 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03405200

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MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • public health
  • poverty
  • medical sociology
  • social class

Mots clés

  • alimentation
  • santé publique
  • pauvreté
  • sociologie médicale
  • classe sociale