-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- "If you build it,
they will come" might not apply to putting more grocery stores in
poor Americans' neighborhoods.
Doing so doesn't necessarily improve residents' eating habits or
reduce obesity rates, a new study suggests.
Healthy foods can be hard to find in poor neighborhoods. To
address the problem, some recently introduced programs in the
United States use loans and grants to boost the number of local
grocery stores in these areas. However, the effectiveness of these
programs in improving diet and reducing obesity has not been
In the new study, researchers from Penn State University and the
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine assessed the impact
of a new supermarket that opened in a poor neighborhood in
Philadelphia. The store was one of 88 new or expanded food retail
outlets opened in the area under the Pennsylvania Fresh Food
Researchers followed 650 neighborhood residents for four years
and found that they didn't make significant changes to their diets
despite being aware that healthier foods were available.
Only 27 percent of the residents used the new supermarket as
their main food store, and only 51 percent used the store at all.
The supermarket's presence had little effect on the residents'
fruit and vegetable intakes or obesity rates, according to the
study, which was published in the February issue of the journal
The findings are similar to those of previous studies in the
United Kingdom, the researchers said.
"Though these interventions are plausible and well-meaning, this study suggests that they are only effective in taking us part of the way in changing dietary behavior," study lead author Steven Cummins, a professor of population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in a school news release. "In order to realize their full potential we need to better understand how to translate changes in perception to changes in behavior."
Increasing the number of grocery stores in poor neighborhoods
needs to be accompanied by sales and marketing to encourage
residents to use these stores, the researchers said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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