Naylor, Patti-Jean (University of Victoria)
1. The Health Problem/Issue
Many children in Canada are overweight or obese and have increased risk of poor health because of unhealthy lifestyle patterns. The environment in which children and families spend time has an influence on this. Children and families use public recreation and sport facilities to help them stay active and healthy. Unfortunately the food in recreation facilities is not healthy. It is often high in fat, salt and sugar. Some provinces have put in place voluntary nutrition guidelines to improve the food sold in recreation centers but they are not being implemented well.
2. The Objectives
To evaluate the impact of provincial guidelines that govern food sales in recreation and sport facilities on the food environment and patron purchasing patterns across three Canadian provinces. Specifically we aim to: a) monitor facility capacity, vending and food service products and patron purchases in 54 facilities across four provinces at baseline and 18 months later (follow-up), b) provide site specific capacity building supports to 18 randomly selected sites across three provinces, c) study the factors that influence implementation of the guidelines and d) work with stakeholders across Canada to ensure that there is access to sustainable regionally relevant information and resources to facilitate change.
3. The Approach
We will measure the recreation facility food environment and monitor food sold through vending and concessions in facilities that are in provinces with guidelines (with and without targeted resources and support provided to them) and in facilities in one province that doesn't have guidelines at baseline and then again after 18 months. We will also monitor changes in vending and concessions sales to assess how changes in the recreation facility food environment affects recreation users' food purchases. We will also interview recreation facility staff and stakeholders about the factors that influence implementation of the guidelines.
4. The Unique Factors
This initiative is innovative because it examines the impact of food environment policies in publicly funded recreation and sport facilities. Very little research is published on this world wide. In fact this would be the first study comparing recreation facility food environments in jurisdictions with guidelines/policies and without. It is also innovative because it compares facilities in three different jurisdictions and also examines the importance of providing resources and support to guideline implementation in three different provinces. Finally, it will also monitor product sales data to see the impact of changes on recreation facility users using a strong research design.
5. How the project is relevant to the objectives of the initiative
Healthy eating is a key health habit related to maintaining healthy weights and preventing heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases like diabetes. Foods purchased from vending or concessions can push out healthy foods from the diet and typically contain more fat, sugar and salt than is healthy. Health habits and overweight developed in childhood carry into the adult years where they increase the risk of chronic disease and poor health. In addition, recreation facilities serve both children and adults, thus ensuring that these important community environments support healthy food decisions for all age groups.
6. The Impact
This research will have an impact on a key community setting where Canadian children and adults make food choices. Healthy eating (consumption of foods low in salt, sugar, fat and calories, and high in fibre and nutrients) is a key determinant of health that helps to prevent heart disease and stroke. The information from this project will be important to policy makers in jurisdictions that have implemented nutrition guidelines. It will provide the evidence about how to enhance implementation of guidelines for healthy food in recreation facilities and other settings so that it will be easier for Canadian children and adults to make healthy food choices more often – this is critical to preventing heart disease and stroke.