Individuals who suffer from obesity and overweight are at significant risk for serious chronic diseases such as cancer, coronary artery disease, stroke and diabetes. In New York, two thirds of the population is considered obese or overweight, leading to a significant burden on public health and imposing substantial healthcare and other economic costs to the state.
The causes of obesity and overweight are complex and include genetic makeup, the environment, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity. Some studies have found an association between access to healthy food and the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Specifically, studies have found an association between a community’s poor access to nutritious foods, called “food deserts,” and its increased incidence of obesity and overweight. Food deserts are often found in low-socioeconomic communities; residents of food deserts typically have limited access to larger chain grocery stores and easy access to small food retailers (e.g., convenience stores, corner stores or bodegas) and fast food restaurants. Policies that spur the retail environment to improve the accessibility of nutritious food may help lower obesity and overweight levels, thereby reducing the incidence of chronic disease.
For more information about policies that may help improve access to nutritious foods, see our technical report and model policy to bring more healthful food to corner stores.