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Policy options for healthier retail food environments in city-regions

Abstract

Public policy is central to health promotion: it determines the distribution of resources in a society and establishes the structural context for the actions of both corporations and consumers. With this in mind, the purpose of this paper is to begin a discussion on promising policy options for a health-promoting retail food environment. Drawing on specific municipal examples, we examine four groups of policy options for healthier retail food environments in city-regions: planning for health; transforming consumer environments; economic and fiscal instruments; and a culture of transparency and participation. We introduce examples of policy options that are receiving increasing attention in the public health and urban planning literature and that function at the municipal level. We also highlight how public health professionals have an important role to play in policy that shapes retail food environments, especially in making explicit the linkages between health and other policy goals. In doing so, this commentary aims to motivate public health practitioners in a variety of community contexts to consider the policy supports they need to advance their exploration, development, testing and evaluation of interventions for healthier retail food environments.

Résumé

La politique publique est au cœur de la promotion de la santé: elle détermine la répartition des ressources dans une société et établit le contexte structurel des actions des entreprises et des consommateurs. Cela dit, l’objet de cet article est d’amorcer une discussion sur les possibilités d’action prometteuses pour rendre l’environnement alimentaire au détail favorable à la santé. D’après des exemples précis recueillis dans le monde municipal, nous examinons quatre groupes de possibilités d’action visant à créer des environnements alimentaires au détail plus sains dans les villes-régions: la planification pour la santé; la transformation des environnements de consommation; les instruments économiques et financiers; et une culture de transparence et de participation. Nous présentons des exemples de possibilités d’action qui reçoivent une attention accrue dans les articles de santé publique et d’urbanisme et qui fonctionnent à l’échelle municipale. Nous soulignons aussi le rôle important que peuvent jouer les professionnels de la santé publique dans les politiques qui influencent les environnements alimentaires au détail, surtout en explicitant les liens entre la santé et d’autres objectifs stratégiques. Ce faisant, notre commentaire vise à motiver les praticiens de la santé publique dans divers contextes communautaires à examiner les soutiens stratégiques dont ils ont besoin pour faire progresser leur exploration, leur élaboration, leur mise à l’essai et leur évaluation d’interventions pour créer des environnements alimentaires au détail plus sains.

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Correspondence to Catherine L. Mah MD, PhD.

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Acknowledgements: Parts of this commentary were previously prepared in a report for the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health.

Conflict of Interest: None to declare.

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Mah, C.L., Cook, B., Rideout, K. et al. Policy options for healthier retail food environments in city-regions. Can J Public Health 107 (Suppl 1), eS64–eS67 (2016). https://doi.org/10.17269/CJPH.107.5343

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Key words

  • Policy
  • social planning
  • environment and public health
  • food supply

Mots Clés

  • politique
  • organisation sociale
  • environnement et santé publique
  • approvisionnement en nourriture