Healthy eating – community strategies

Healthy, safe and affordable food is a key determinant of health.1 When we are able to access and consume healthy foods, we lower our risk of developing chronic diseases. However, the food we eat can also increase our risk of poor health.2 Did you know that approximately 30% of colorectal cancers in Alberta may be caused by an unhealthy diet?3

Eating healthy is not only a matter of personal choice, it can also be positively influenced by community environments.

When our communities implement multi-component community-wide interventions, they are better able to strengthen four action areas: the social environment, the physical environment, the economic environment and the policy environment. These action areas are supported by community leadership and learning from experience.

Multi-component community-wide interventions that promote and support healthy food and beverage choices in your community are important. These interventions may include policies that increase the availability, affordability and accessibility of healthy foods and beverages. This strategy can be supported by providing nutrition education and programming to children and families.

Although multi-component community-wide interventions are ideal, communities need to start where they are at! This may mean starting with one strategy, environment or setting and then building on it as you move towards thinking broadly about healthy eating.

Ways to take action

All of the evidence-informed strategies are tried, tested and useful strategies that are based on current research. See the methods section for more information on how these strategies were developed.

Changing the social environment is about building awareness and promoting positive attitudes and social norms about healthy food and beverage choices. 

Remember to implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the social environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the physical, economic and policy environments.

Changing the physical environment is about making healthy food and beverage choices easier by increasing the availability, awareness and visibility of healthy food in the community.

Remember to implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the physical environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, economic and policy environments.

Changing the economic environment is about promoting healthy food and beverage choices by ensuring individuals have the financial resources to purchase healthy food and making healthy food more affordable.

Remember to implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the economic environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, physical and policy environments.

Access to both healthy and unhealthy foods and beverages where we live, work, play and grow affects our health. There are many community policies that help improve access to healthy food, reduce access to unhealthy food and ensure that healthy food is affordable for all.

Remember to implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the policy environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, physical and economic environments.

  1. Mikkonen J, Raphael D. Social determinants of health: the Canadian facts. Toronto (ON): York University School of Health Policy and Management; 2010. Available from: http://thecanadianfacts.org/.
  2. World Health Organization (WHO). Healthy diet. Geneva (SW): WHO; 2015. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs394/en/.
  3. Alberta Health Services (AHS). Eat healthy. Alberta: AHS; n.d. Available from: http://www.albertapreventscancer.ca/reduce-your-risk/eat-healthy/.
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