A new metrics toolbox to assess the cost and geographic distribution of healthy diets


This presentation was delivered by Anju Aggarwal, Acting Assistant Professor in Epidemiology at the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Aligning global food production systems with population-wide energy and nutrient needs requires a closer look at the multiple drivers of food choice. Whereas some consumer food decisions are thought to be under individual control, others clearly are not.

Taste, cost, convenience, variety, health concerns and multiple attitudes and behaviors affect day-to-day food seeking behaviors, diet quality, and health outcomes. Each of these domains has its metrics and measures that can be deployed to quantify physical, economic and psychosocial access to healthy foods.

Merging dietary intakes data with retail food prices at both local and national levels allows for new studies of diet quality in relation to diet cost, assessed at the individual rather than household levels. These studies led to the concept of nutrition resilience, operationalized as the ability to eat better for less.

Geo-localizing addresses of study participants by tax parcel allows for new studies in spatial nutritional epidemiology. The ability to geocode the place of food acquisition and consumption, and thus map geographic disparities in behaviors, diets and health is a new approach to nutritional epidemiology. These metrics leverage cutting-edge GIS technologies and spatial techniques that can, potentially, be used outside the United States.

By the end of the talk, we will explore the utility of this toolbox to measure access to healthy foods in LMIC and in high income countries.

This presentation was part of at an event titled "Aligning the Food System to Meet Dietary Needs: Fruits and Vegetables," which took place on June 2-3, 2017, at the UC Davis Conference Center.