Neighborhood Disparities in the Restaurant Food Environment

Martinez-Donate, A. P., J. V. Espino, A. Meinen, A. L. Escaron, A. Roubal, J. Nieto, and K. Malecki. Neighborhood Disparities in the Restaurant Food Environment. Vol. 115, no. 5, WMJ: official publication of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin, 2016.

PMID: 29095587 PMCID: PMC6095698 IMPORTANCE: Restaurant meals account for a significant portion of the American diet. Investigating disparities in the restaurant food environment can inform targeted interventions to increase opportunities for healthy eating among those who need them most. OBJECTIVE: To examine neighborhood disparities in restaurant density and the nutrition environment within restaurants among a statewide sample of Wisconsin households. METHODS: Households (N = 259) were selected from the 2009-2010 Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW), a population-based survey of Wisconsin adults. Restaurants in the household neighborhood were enumerated and audited using the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Restaurants (NEMS-R). Neighborhoods were defined as a 2- and 5-mile street-distance buffer around households in urban and non-urban areas, respectively. Adjusted linear regression models identified independent associations between sociodemographic household characteristics and neighborhood restaurant density and nutrition environment scores. RESULTS: On average, each neighborhood contained approximately 26 restaurants. On average, restaurants obtained 36.1% of the total nutrition environment points. After adjusting for household characteristics, higher restaurant density was associated with both younger and older household average age (P < .05), all white households (P = .01), and urban location (P < .001). Compared to rural neighborhoods, urban and suburban neighborhoods had slightly higher (ie, healthier) nutrition environment scores (P < .001). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: The restaurant food environment in Wisconsin neighborhoods varies by age, race, and urbanicity, but offers ample room for improvement across socioeconomic groups and urbanicity levels. Future research must identify policy and environmental interventions to promote healthy eating in all restaurants, especially in young and/or rural neighborhoods in Wisconsin.

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