Why Food Access Matters: Making the Case for Prevention


Last week, the New York Times published “Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity,” sparking a public dialogue in the media on food access and its relation to health.

The article and the ensuing discussion are important to Douglas County residents for two reasons. First, LiveWell Lawrence was recently awarded a $23,525 planning grant through the Kansas Health Foundation’s Access to Healthy Foods Initiative. Second, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department's current effort to conduct a comprehensive community health assessment has identified lack of access to affordable healthy foods as one of the convergent community health issues facing Douglas County.

Unfortunately, the article missed the mark by dismissing two decades worth of peer-reviewed research that has established a link between food access and health. Significant public health data affirms that access to fresh, healthy retail food impacts eating behavior and, in turn, health. A recent comprehensive review found that people who have access to supermarkets tend to have healthier diets, and another study indicates that chronic disease rates are up to 20% higher among those living in the least healthy food environments. The research is clear: food environments matter.


The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is releasing the Douglas County community health assessment report later this week and is organizing a series of public forums to discuss the findings. They will be:

• May 9 — 3:30 p.m., Lawrence's Community Health Facility, 200 Maine. (Lawrence flyer)

• May 15 — 7 p.m., Eudora Community Center, 1630 Elm St. (Eudora flyer)

• May 16 — 7 p.m., Baldwin City Library, 800 Seventh St. (Baldwin flyer)

• May 17 — 7 p.m., Lawrence's Community Health Facility, 200 Maine. (Lawrence flyer)

Tagged: Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, Access to Healthy Foods, LiveWell Lawrence


Karrey Britt 6 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the post Charlie. I can't wait to hear the results of the community health assessment.

DCCDA 6 years ago

Thanks, Charlie. We read that article as well and felt that it missed the mark. Access may not be the whole solution, but it is certainly a major factor.

Marilyn Hull 6 years ago

Another thing to discuss is reducing access to unhealthy foods. Nobody wants to be a food nazi or trample on free enterprise, but as long as delicious junk food is everywhere, we are going to have a problem.

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