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, nearly two-thirds of the adult population is 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 poor access to nutritious foods and higher prevalence of obesity and overweight within certain communities, sometimes called “food deserts.” Food deserts often overlap with low-socioeconomic status 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. Public health policies and urban planning solutions that spur the retail environment to improve the accessibility of nutritious food may help lower obesity and overweight levels, thereby reducing the incidence and prevalence of chronic diet-related diseases.
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.
Healthy Retailing: Improving Access to Healthy Foods at the Corner Store
A technical report on healthy food retail licensing, zoning, and voluntary programs.