Online Program

Addressing equity gaps in healthy food access: A meso-level model of food innovation, distribution and acceptance

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 1:10 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Derek Chan, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Jeroen Struben, Ph.D., Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Laurette Dubé, Ph.D., Desautels Faculty of Management, Mcgill Centre for the Converge of Health and Economics, Montreal, QC, Canada

Background: Ubiquitous presence of obesogenic food and poor access to calorie-poor nutrient-rich food has been responsible for a marked difference in diet quality across socio-economic classes. While market-driven healthy food innovations show the ability to sustain and grow over time, the availability and consumption of these products are predominantly within higher-wealth populations.

Method: We draw upon extant research and literature on food environments, distribution, access, acceptability and culture concentrating on regional and socio-demographic differences. Using this, we construct a stylized meso-level behavioral dynamic nutritional food market transformation model following the system dynamics methodology. Using geo-spatial point-of-sales and socio-demographic data from the Quebec, we apply the model to the Canadian context. Modeling small and larger scale firm-, government- and social sector-led actions and policies targeting healthy food, we identify mechanisms that underlie equity gaps and explore high leverage interventions to overcome this.

Results: Simulation results show that classic single-actor market-led innovations have limited success in low-income areas due greatly to their poor food distribution networks, marketing infrastructure, and consumer acceptance which, resulting from low marginal benefit to improve each, collectively sustains disadvantages for low-income areas. Additionally, uptake is constrained by inertia from habitualization and group normsthat entrench existing food behavior. These factors, while significant causes of market failures, through convergent multi-stakeholder innovation, can also serve as significant leverage points.

Conclusions: Community-based nutritional education and infrastructure improvement interventions and directives directly targeted to these levers in underserved neighborhoods assist in overcoming accessibility barriers and sustaining innovation to overcome the inclusiveness gap.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Explain the root causes of dietary differences across socio-economic classes from the perspective of food firms, retailers, government, consumers and other stakeholders. Describe the interactions between major feedback systems shaping the food environment. Compare various single-actor and multi-actor interventions, policies and actions and their effect on diet, firm profit, firm market share and government and social spending.

Keyword(s): Built Environment, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal or co-principal of multiple funded health and social science grants (federally, provincially) studying modern health challenges through cross disciplinary lenses. I am the founding chair of the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics. My research interests include integrating health, management and systems sciences, studying human behaviour and its effect on health, disease prevention, health promotion, delivery and management.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.