Background In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has prioritised reducing obesity rates. Many local authorities have employed planning guidance to manage the local food environment and promote a healthy environment. There is a lack of evidence on the effectiveness of this type of guidance on the food environment and subsequently health outcomes in particular inequalities. The primary aim of this paper is to examine the impact of planning guidance on the number and type of food outlets, health outcomes in particular obesity rates for children, and inequalities in these outcomes in a local authority in the North East of England. Gateshead implemented a blanket ban on all new takeaways in 2015.
Methods The datasets consist of yearly number and type of food outlets in Gateshead from the Food Standards Agency Food Hygiene Rating System, Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015/2019, population density from the Office for National Statistics, childhood obesity data from the National Child Measurement Programme, and type 2 diabetes and hypertension data from Public Health England. The data is merged and analysed at lower layer super output area level across 8 years from 2012–2019. We use fixed effects and difference in difference models to investigate the impact of planning guidance on the food environment in Gateshead. The control groups are the neighbouring local authorities where did not implement the guidance. A fixed effects model will be employed to test the relationship between the density of food establishments and incidence of the relevant health conditions such as childhood obesity.
Results Our preliminary results show the planning guidance significantly reduced the proportion of takeaways compared to all other types of food outlets (p-value: 0.000). However, there was no statistically significant reduction in takeaways.
Conclusion This study provides preliminary evidence on the effectiveness of policy to manage the food environment. Our next step will be to explore how changes to the food environment impact on health outcomes and inequalities.
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