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“Street-Level” Research in Public Health Nutrition: A Cross-Sectional Study of Dietary Behavior in New York City

By: Published: 2020 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases: Medicine and Health
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It is well established that the local food environment, including the quality and quantity of food available in a defined geographic area or the differential pricing of healthy versus unhealthy foods, can influence dietary intake and the overall health of people. Furthermore, the rise of obesity and obesogenic behaviors that contribute to cardiovascular diseases demand greater attention be given to the dietary habits of the population. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to obtain comprehensive understanding of dietary intake requires the use of 24-hr dietary recalls or food frequency questionnaires, many of which are either time or cost prohibitive or subjected to numerous validity and reliability concerns. In New York City (NYC), local corner convenience stores, commonly known as bodegas, serve as an easily accessible and frequent source of nutrition intake. However, in contrast to the more sophisticated sales data available from large supermarkets and stores, sales histories for bodegas are largely unknown. This case study presents one approach to nutrition research at the point of purchase (street) level, utilizing a cross-sectional study design with two primary objectives: determine the frequency, quality, and quantity of bodega shopping behavior among residents and study the relationship between shopping behavior and the bodega store environment. Key challenges of the project included response rates, incomplete data, and seasonal variation of data collection. Lessons learned from this project reinforce the need to be flexible in data collection approaches for underrepresented or hard-to-reach populations.

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