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?

  1. Two systematic literature reviews into dietary intake and current food costs in low socioeconomic groups in Australia, and literature reviews of food purchasing behaviours.
  2. Modification of Healthy Diets ASAP methods protocol for use with low socioeconomic groups.
  3. Testing of the modified Healthy Diets ASAP protocol through the assessment of the cost and affordability of healthy diets in low socioeconomic groups.
  4. Policy recommendations.

Project lead

Meron Lewis, PhD candidate, the Prevention Centre, University of Queensland

Supervisors

Professor Amanda Lee, University of Queensland

Professor Sarah McNaughton, Deakin University

 

This project is funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, ACT Health, Cancer Council Australia, NSW Ministry of Health, South Australia Department for Health and Wellbeing, Tasmanian Department of Health, and VicHealth.

 

 

 

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