The purpose of this research is to explore and simulate the impact of interventions aimed at reducing exposure to the food retail environment with a focus on decreasing consumption of foods and beverages high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS food).
The goals of the research are to understand how individual interaction with the food retail system produces unequal patterns of health in the population by using agent-based models and to explore how food purchasing behaviour changes under the application of policies that encourage a healthier food retail environment. Of particular interest is to explore how inequalities in exposure to the food retail environment are related to inequalities in dietary behaviour.
The research has three main aims. First, to gain an understanding of the mechanisms involved in the food retail system by developing a Causal Loop Diagram (CLD). The CLD will aid the characterisation of the system drivers that influence the decision to purchase HFSS food. Second, to develop a comprehensive spatial agent-based model to characterise these system drivers of inequalities in exposure to the food retail environment and out of home consumption. Thirdly, in the ABM model, three policies will be simulated to explore their influence in the food retail environment and whether it affects out of home food consumption. Finally, the ODD protocol will be adapted to develop a systematic, rigorous and transparent guideline for using complex system approaches in public health.
Systems science methods, including agent-based and system dynamics modelling, are emerging as potentially useful tools for examining these complex processes. System approaches go beyond the recognition that health is affected by distal factors or factors defined at multiple levels of an organization, as has been the tradition in public health for a long time. In addition, they give you the possibility to create a virtual world which provides: a low-cost laboratory for learning; (2) allows time and space to be compressed so you can stop the action to reflect; (3) take decisions that are dangerous, unethical and infeasible; and (4) provide high-quality outcome feedback.
Findings from this research will generate evidence to inform relevant local and national UK public health policy around obesity.
Cummins, Steven & Berger, Nicolas & Cornelsen, Laura & Eling, Judith & Er, Vanessa & Greener, Robert & Kalbus, Alexandra & Karapici, Amanda & Law, Cherry & Ndlovu, Denise & Yau, Amy. (2020). COVID-19: impact on the urban food retail system, diet and health inequalities in the UK. 10.31235/osf.io/dwv2e.