Assessing the cost of healthy diets in low socioeconomic groups in Australia
Project title: Development and evaluation of a data collection method, and resultant policy recommendations, in relation to the price and affordability of healthy (recommended) and current (unhealthy) diets in low socioeconomic groups in Australia
Start date: January 2019
Estimated end date: January 2022
What is the issue?
People who are socially and economically disadvantaged have both poorer diets and poorer health outcomes. The price and affordability of food is an important factor in people’s food choices and nutritional intake.
It has been assumed that some people choose not to buy healthy food because of the price. However, previous Prevention Centre research indicated for the first time that healthy diets would be 12–15% cheaper than unhealthy diets for a family of two adults and two children in Australia. This work led to the development of the Healthy Diets Australian Standardised Affordability and Pricing (ASAP) methods protocol to measure and compare the price and affordability of a healthy diet to that currently consumed.
This PhD project will tailor the Healthy Diets ASAP methods to a low socioeconomic population. It will generate evidence to inform public health policy actions to improve food security, nutrition and diet-related health in this population.
How is the project addressing the issue?
The first step is a systematic literature review into dietary intake, diet costs and affordability in low socioeconomic groups in Australia to identify previous approaches, results and knowledge gaps. We will also undertake a literature review to identify knowledge gaps around food purchasing behaviours in low socioeconomic groups.
The Healthy Diets ASAP methods will then be modified to assess the cost and affordability of healthy diets in low socioeconomic groups. This project will study family structures that may be more relevant in this population, for example, single parent households and households that rely solely on welfare income.
Relevance for practice
Previous research assessing the affordability of foods in low socioeconomic groups has been based on the cost of arbitrarily selected healthy foods only, without comparison to current food spending. This will be the first study to assess the cost and affordability of the entire diet of low socioeconomic groups in Australia in terms of both the healthy (recommended) and the current (unhealthy) diets.
The findings of this project will help to identify fiscal, public health and nutrition policy actions which could be undertaken by various levels of government to improve food security, nutrition and diet-related health in low socioeconomic groups.
What are the expected outcomes?
- Two systematic literature reviews into dietary intake and current food costs in low socioeconomic groups in Australia, and literature reviews of food purchasing behaviours.
- Modification of Healthy Diets ASAP methods protocol for use with low socioeconomic groups.
- Testing of the modified Healthy Diets ASAP protocol through the assessment of the cost and affordability of healthy diets in low socioeconomic groups.
- Policy recommendations.
Meron Lewis, PhD candidate, the Prevention Centre, University of Queensland
Professor Amanda Lee, University of Queensland
Professor Sarah McNaughton, Deakin University
Professor Lucie Rychetnik, The University of Sydney and The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre
This project is funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, ACT Health, Cancer Council Australia, NSW Ministry of Health, South Australian Department for Health and Wellbeing, Tasmanian Department of Health, and VicHealth.
- Lewis M, McNaughton SA, Rychetnik L, Lee AJ. Cost and affordability of healthy, equitable and sustainable diets in low socioeconomic groups in Australia. Nutrients. 2021;13(8):2900.
- Lee A, Patay D, Herron L-M, Parnell Harrison E, Lewis M. Affordability of current, and healthy, more equitable, sustainable diets by area of socioeconomic disadvantage and remoteness in Queensland: insights into food choice. Int J Equity Health. 2021;20(1):153. doi:10.1186/s12939-021-01481-8
- Lewis M, McNaughton S A, Rychetnik L, and Lee A J. A systematic scoping review of the habitual dietary costs in low socioeconomic groups compared to high socioeconomic groups in Australia. Nutrition Journal 2020;19(1): 139.
- Lewis M, Lee AJ. Dietary inequity? Asystematic scoping review of dietary intake in low socio-economic groups compared with high socio-economic groups in Australia. Public Health Nutrition. 2020 Sep 4:1–9. doi: 10.1017/S1368980020003006
- Lewis M, Lee AJ. Affording health during the COVID‐19 pandemic and associated economic downturn. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2020 Jan 1. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.13045
- Lewis M. Poster presentation, University of Queensland Faculty of Medicine HDR Symposium, December 2019.