Source: University of Auckland, 27 April 2016
Food retailers near schools may need to consider ways to reduce
children's exposure to unhealthy foods before and after school.
That's the conclusion from the first nationwide spatial analysis
of retail food environments around schools in New Zealand.
The study by University of Auckland researchers looked at the
proximity and density of fast food, takeaway, and convenience
outlets (FFTCs) around New Zealand schools in 2014.
More than 60 percent of urban schools have a convenience store
and a fast food or takeaway outlet within 800 metres, while the
density of unhealthy food outlets around urban schools is
substantial (with a maximum of 85 unhealthy outlets per square
kilometre found for one school).
The study, published today [27 April] in the American Journal of
Preventative Medicine, showed that access to unhealthy foods
through food outlets within walking distance from urban schools is
greater from the most socioeconomically deprived schools, (compared
to the least socioeconomically deprived schools).
"As a way of protecting children from exposure to unhealthy food
sources and obesity, creating healthy food zones around schools may
be an important policy lever, but has not been widely implemented
yet," says lead researcher, Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere from the
University of Auckland's School of Population Health.
"Access to unhealthy foods through food outlets within walking
distance from urban schools is substantial in New Zealand and
greater for the most deprived schools," she says.
"Health promoters should work with retailers to explore feasible
actions to reduce children's exposure to unhealthy foods before and
after school," says Dr Vandevijvere. "In future, provisions to
allow Councils to restrict new food outlets in school
neighbourhoods could also be included in the Local Government
Median road distance to the closest convenience store from urban
schools was significantly higher for the least deprived schools
(617 m) versus the most deprived (521 m) schools, while the
opposite was found for rural schools.
"Among rural schools, representing about one third of schools in
New Zealand, access to unhealthy food outlets does not seem to be a
problem, as the median road distance to the closest unhealthy food
outlet is more than 10 kilometres," says Dr Vandevijvere.
Although some states in the USA and South Korea have taken some
actions to limit unhealthy food outlets or sources around schools,
the Local Government Act (2002) in New Zealand does not include
provisions for the local Councils to allow them to enact similar
zoning policies, she says.
The Health Act 1956 imposes on Councils a general duty to
improve, promote, and protect public health.
"A revision of the Resource Management Act (1991), promoting the
sustainable management of natural and physical resources in New
Zealand, could be performed to include provisions to allow for
limiting new food outlets in school neighbourhoods by Councils,"
says Dr Vandevijvere.
"The student council of a school in Hamilton recently took
action and approached nearby sweet and sugary drink sellers to ask
them not to sell to pupils in uniform and six convenience stores
have signed up to date," she says. "This shows that voluntary
approaches should be explored further, and that they have the
potential to work."
The Journal article can be foud here.