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Saskatoon team studying impact of food environment on childrens health

What is this study about? As many as 2000 Saskatoon children between the ages of 10-13 years in 20 neighbourhoods will participate in a major study of the impact that our food environment has on childhood obesity. The food environment refers to the neighbourhoods in which we live and how easily we, and particularly our children, can access nutritious food. A team of Saskatoon researchers has received $425,000 from the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation to conduct this study. We are interested in where food stores and restaurants are located in Saskatoon and how nutritious the foods they carry are. By incorporating data on body weight of children, we ultimately hope to support the development of improvements to health policy and practice in Saskatoon, and also provide information that would benefit the nutrition and health of children and families. A preliminary characterization of food access and availability in Saskatoon neighbourhoods has been completed and has already enabled the identification of parts of the city where food access is limited. However, we want to update this and include convenience stores in the analysis. Together, all of this information will provide a comprehensive descriptive picture of the food environments in Saskatoon neighbourhoods on which to build the subsequent phases of our research. How are we conducting this study? Question 1a: What is the geographical distribution of food stores and fast food restaurants in Saskatoon and how is this distribution related to neighbourhood demographic and socio-economic profiles? During the first four months of the study (September-December 2010), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools were used to complete maps of fast food restaurants, grocery, convenience, specialty and all other food stores in the 60 residential neighbourhoods in the City of Saskatoon. This process had already been initiated by Public Health Services (Saskatoon Health Region); parts of the city where food access is limited have already been identified and can be related back to demographic and socioeconomic profiles. Question 1b: What are the differences in food environments, such as location of different types of food stores and food quality between higher and lower socioeconomic status neighbourhoods in Saskatoon? The consumer nutrition environments of chain supermarkets, smaller grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants were measured using a Canadian adaptation of the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Stores (NEMS-S) and the original Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Restaurants (NEMS-R), which is already applicable to

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Contact: Tracy Ridalls 306-966-2237

the Canadian context. Scores will be calculated for each store using availability, quality, and price, and for each restaurant using availability, nutrition information and price. Using these scores, we will then develop a series of maps showing the distribution of the quality of the food environment within all residential neighbourhoods in Saskatoon. We will also add selected demographic and socio-economic variables to assess the relationship between the food environment and neighbourhood income levels. Question 2: What is the relationship between the quality of the food environment available, as measured by (NEMS-S) and (NEMS-R), in Saskatoon neighbourhoods, and the dietary intake and body weights of children aged 10-13 years living in those neighbourhoods? We will recruit approximately 100 children from each of the 20 neighborhoods that show the most and the least positive food environment characteristics based on the previous study data collection (GIS and NEMS). The children will participate in a survey that will be self-administered in class, including questions on sociodemographic characteristics, a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for dietary assessment, and questions on the childrens experiences of their neighbourhood food environment. A research assistant will also measure heights and weights in order to calculate BMI and determine body weight status. Our analysis will account for things like parental educational level, parental income, proportion of families with no vehicles, and proportion of lone parent families. Question 3: How should the information collected in this study be shared in order to facilitate change that will improve food environments for Saskatoon, and then in other cities in other regions of the country? Interviews will be conducted with various governmental, health region, and community-based officials to share preliminary results, ask for feedback, and discuss policy change options to improve the food environment in Saskatoon. The results will be compiled into a document that will be disseminated widely. Who is involved? We have assembled a group of researchers, decision-makers, and practitioners who will pool their expertise and knowledge, to create new knowledge and apply this knowledge to local decisionmaking and new neighbourhood development. Further, we will share our findings widely, so that other communities across the province, the country, and beyond, can learn from us. Research team members include researchers from the University of Saskatchewan: Rachel EnglerStringer (Community Health and Epidemiology/University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine), Nazeem Muhajarine (Community Health and Epidemiology/Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit [SPHERU]), Susan Buhler (University of Alberta School of Public Health), Jennifer Cushon (Saskatoon Health Region), Paul Veugelers (University of Alberta School of Public Health), Karen Archibald (CHEP Good Food Inc.), Charlie Clark (City of Saskatoon), Bill Holden (City of Saskatoon), and Twyla Markham (Saskatoon Health Region). Partner organizations include: the Saskatoon Health Region (specifically the Health Promotion Department and the Public Health Observatory); CHEP Good Food Inc. Project staff: Tracy Ridalls, MA (Research Coordinator), Joel Heitmar, Sugandhi Wickremarachchi, Jen Schmidt, Alison Macintosh, Janelle Anderson, Jostein Misfeldt, and Le Ha.

For more information, contact Tracy Ridalls at (306) 966-2237,