Topical Area: Community and Public Health Nutrition
Objectives : To assess the nutrition environment in three rural Louisiana parishes (counties) with high rates of poverty (range 25%-41.7%), obesity ( >40%), and chronic diseases and to better understand the local nutrition environment in rural, low-income, food insecure areas and to evaluate policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change strategies aimed at improving the rural food environment.
Healthy Access, Behaviors, Communities was a community-participatory, multi-level approach to obesity prevention in Louisiana. This evaluation used a descriptive, mixed methods design that focused on 1st and 3rd year project data. Nutrition environments were assessed using the reduced Nutrition Environment Measurement Survey (NEMS) for food stores and restaurants. Pre and post NEMS scores were compared to determine if PSE interventions were effective in improving the nutrition environment.
Overall, 48 food stores and 39 restaurants were assessed at baseline, while 45 food stores and 36 restaurants were assessed at follow-up. Different numbers between baseline and follow-up assessments are due to store closures/openings. Except for the grocery store and fast food environments in Madison parish, the food environments were poor across the targeted parishes, with NEMS scores indicating a lack of healthy grocery items (stores) or a lack of healthy menu options (restaurants). With few exceptions, average NEMS scores generally increased slightly over the assessments, which is a positive trend; however, these positive changes did not result in the food retail environment moving from unhealthy to healthy. Five stores were targeted by the coalition to implement PSE changes. Of the partner stores, the average number of healthy foods available increased in all categories, except skim or low-fat milk, from baseline to post-intervention.
Findings from baseline indicate that the nutrition environment in these poor, rural parishes can present challenges to individuals attempting to meet preventative health recommendations. PSE interventions can improve the nutrition environment in these locations.
Funding Sources : Centers for Disease Control High Obesity 1416 Cooperative agreement