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Evidence to support healthy supermarket interventions

Associate Professor Adrian Cameron, Institution: Deakin University

2019 Future Leader Fellowship

Years funded: 2020-2025


Australians buy most of their food in supermarkets. The current supermarket environment, including the use of marketing strategies such as the placement, promotion and pricing of products, serves to drive the unhealthy purchasing decisions that have seen obesity and poor diets rise to be the top two ranked risk factors for death and disability in Australia. I recently led a series of award-winning trials to improve the healthiness of supermarket environments, culminating in the recently completed, NHMRC funded 12-month "Eat Well @ IGA" randomised controlled trial (RCT). These trials showed that small changes in the supermarket setting can lead to healthier purchasing patterns; however, they did not address the full range of intervention options available in the supermarket setting, including the potential for retailer and/or government restriction of the marketing of less healthy food (i.e. price promotions, product placement).

This grant represents the next generation of research needed to address the complex and powerful drivers of food marketing in the supermarket, including relevant retailer, manufacturer and government policies. It will provide a comprehensive evidence base to support interventions by retailers, policy-makers and the public health community. Embedded within a closely aligned NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Food Retail EnvironmentS for Health ("RE-FRESH"), the proposed work is based on rigorous methods and uses a range of strategies to influence a highly complex system. It will cement my place as one of the leaders in public health supermarket research globally and will ensure the continued upward trajectory of my team.

This work has considerable potential to improve cardiovascular health in Australia given the strong relationship between diet, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. It will provide new evidence to support retail healthy eating interventions, including the identification of novel mechanisms for helping the food industry, policy makers and the public health community create healthier retail food environments.

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