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Reducing inequalities in health and diet: the impact of a food retail development: A pilot study

It has been suggested that inadequate retail provision of food for those with a low income or who live in poor neighbourhoods may contribute to diet-related inequalities in health. This pilot project, funded through the DH Reducing Health Inequalities Research Initiative (Phase 2), investigated these issues by evaluating the health impacts of a large-scale food retail development within a deprived area of Glasgow (Springburn). It used a prospective design which compared change in diet, and self reported health in an area where a new hypermarket was built (the intervention area), with a similarly-deprived comparison area in Glasgow city (Shettleston).

A postal survey was undertaken both before and 1 year after the hypermarket was built, in order to assess changes in diet, self-reported health, and perceptions of the neighbourhood. Changes in the retail structure in both areas were assessed through a before and (repeated) after shop count survey. Qualitative data on diet, the neighbourhood and the impact of the store were collected by means of focus groups.

The study found little evidence that the opening of a major new hypermarket had a major effect on fruit and vegetable consumption; there were changes in the intervention area but these were similar to those in the comparison area (emphasising the need for control groups in evaluative research such as this). Over the year of the study the new store also had little effect on the retail structure in Springburn (the intervention area) compared to Shettleston (the comparison area), although the vacancy rate fell in Springburn.

The main impact on the community is probably the provision of new jobs. Excluding the employment impacts, the net effect of the new Tesco Extra has been neither positive nor negative. The diet and health impacts on new store employees is an avenue for future research. In conclusion, the main public health impacts of such private sector investment in poorer areas are likely to be achieved via increases in employment opportunities, which impact upon general and psychological health, rather than directly, through changes in diet.

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Reducing inequalities in health and diet: the impact of a food retail development: A pilot study