Availability and Promotion of Healthful Foods in Stores and Restaurants ― Guam, 2015
RESEARCH BRIEF — Volume 14 — July 13, 2017
Elizabeth A. Lundeen, PhD, MPH1; Brenna K. VanFrank, MD, MSPH1; Sandra L. Jackson, PhD, MPH2; Brittani Harmon, DrPH1; Alyssa Uncangco3; Patrick Luces3; Carrie Dooyema, MPH, MSN1; Sohyun Park, PhD1 (View author affiliations)
Suggested citation for this article: Lundeen EA, VanFrank BK, Jackson SL, Harmon B, Uncangco A, Luces P, et al. Availability and Promotion of Healthful Foods in Stores and Restaurants ― Guam, 2015. Prev Chronic Dis 2017;14:160528. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd14.160528.
Chronic disease, which is linked to unhealthy nutrition environments, is highly prevalent in Guam. The nutrition environment was assessed in 114 stores and 63 restaurants in Guam. Stores had limited availability of some healthier foods such as lean ground meat (7.5%) and 100% whole-wheat bread (11.4%), while fruits (81.0%) and vegetables (94.8%) were more commonly available; 43.7% of restaurants offered a healthy entrée or main dish salad, 4.1% provided calorie information, and 15.7% denoted healthier choices on menus. Improving the nutrition environment could help customers make healthier choices.
Guam, a US Affiliated Pacific Island, has a similarly high prevalence of self-reported obesity and chronic disease as the continental United States; 31.6% of adults have obesity, 32.0% have hypertension, and 12.0% have diagnosed diabetes (1,2). The nutrition environment — the availability, pricing, and promotion of foods in stores and restaurants — may contribute to chronic disease (3). The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) and its partners outlined chronic disease prevention strategies, including increasing fruit and vegetable intake and decreasing salt consumption (4). To guide these strategies, we conducted assessments of the nutrition environment in stores and restaurants.
A sampling frame of 607 stores and 711 restaurants was developed using business listings from the Guam DPHSS, Division of Environmental Health, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the telephone directory. A regionally stratified, disproportionate allocation sampling method was used to randomly select 114 stores, classified as large stores (≥2 cash registers, n = 37) and small stores (1 cash register, n = 77), and 63 restaurants (43 sit-down, 20 fast-casual/fast-food). Stores were surveyed if they were open to the public, had a permanent or nonmobile structure, and sold at least 3 of 5 staple foods (milk, bread, eggs, meat or fish, or produce). Three large stores, where many residents shopped, were deliberately sampled. Restaurants were included if they met the first 2 criteria and offered 5 or more breakfast, lunch, or dinner entrées.
The Nutrition Environment Measures Survey (NEMS) is a validated assessment tool for stores (NEMS–S) (5) and restaurants (NEMS–R) (6). Being a US territory, Guam has food options in restaurants and stores that are similar to those in the continental United States. Additionally, NEMS was further adapted for Guam through a literature review on local dietary patterns (7,8), consultation with local dietitians, and field testing of the survey tools. In September 2015, surveyors used NEMS to assess food options through on-site observations and menu reviews. In stores, NEMS defined healthier options as fruits and vegetables, reduced-fat milk, low-calorie beverages, whole grains, lean meats, and reduced-fat condiments or snacks. Because many stores lacked visible prices, a few commonly available staple foods were preselected for pricing. Within-store price comparisons were made between healthier items and their regular counterparts: reduced-fat (≤2%) milk versus whole milk and brown rice versus white rice. Price comparisons were made between large and small stores for 4 healthier items: bananas, cabbage, reduced-fat milk, and brown rice. In restaurants, healthy dishes were defined based on calorie and fat content or menu icons denoting healthy items. Within-restaurant price comparisons were made for the least expensive healthy entrées and sides versus the least expensive less-healthy entrées and sides. We used χ2 tests to examine differences in availability and t tests for pricing comparisons (significant at P < .05). Analyses were weighted to account for survey design.
Stores had limited availability for several healthier items like 100% whole-wheat bread (11.4%), whole-grain cereal with less than 7 g of sugar per serving (25.4%), lean ground meat with 10% or less fat (7.5%), and 1% fat/skim milk (20.6%) (Table 1). Availability was greater for other items like fruits (81.0%) and vegetables (94.8%), including fresh fruits (65.3%) and fresh vegetables (62.8%). Among stores that sold fresh fruits and vegetables, variety was somewhat limited; 46.9% sold more than 2 varieties of fresh fruits, and 57.9% sold more than 2 varieties of fresh vegetables. For the majority of healthier foods, availability was greater in large stores than in small stores. There was no difference in the average price of reduced-fat milk ($5.94 per 0.5 gallon) versus whole milk ($5.98 per 0.5 gallon), or brown rice ($6.35 per 5 lb) versus white rice ($6.46 per 5 lb). Small stores had significantly higher prices than large stores for bananas ($1.82 vs $1.44 for 1 lb), reduced-fat milk ($6.06 vs $5.76 for 0.5 gallon), and brown rice ($6.78 vs $6.01 for 5 lb). Stores more commonly promoted less-healthy eating (57.1%) than healthy eating (10.7%) through store signage.
Although only 12.6% of restaurants offered 1 or more healthy entrées on the adult menu, 39.4% had a healthy main salad (Table 2). Combined, 43.7% offered a healthy entrée or main dish salad. Over half (58.8%) offered free refills of sugar-sweetened beverages. Thirty-three percent of restaurants had a kids’ menu; of these, 62.8% offered 1 or more healthy entrées and 48.8% provided a healthy beverage by default. Calorie information was available in 4.1% of restaurants, whereas 15.7% had menu icons denoting healthier dishes. The only significant difference in pricing was found in sit-down restaurants, where the least expensive healthy entrée cost $16.53 on average versus $13.86 for the least expensive less-healthy entrée. Restaurants more commonly used signs and displays to encourage unhealthy eating (29.1%) than healthy eating (19.2%).
Availability of healthier foods in stores varied across items, with some healthier options having limited availability. Small stores generally had less availability and higher prices for healthier foods than did large stores. In restaurants, availability of healthier foods was limited and nutrition information was generally unavailable. Promotional materials in stores and restaurants more commonly encouraged unhealthy eating. These findings are similar to the findings of surveys in the continental United States (5,9–11) and American Samoa (12), which found more limited availability of healthier options in small stores. Findings from restaurants in Guam are consistent with findings from a restaurant survey in Minnesota, which found limited availability of healthy entrées and nutrition information (11).
This study is the only nutrition environment assessment of its kind in Guam. By assessing both stores and restaurants, the survey provided a comprehensive picture of the nutrition environment on the island. However, this assessment has limitations. Challenges in creating an accurate sampling frame because of business closures, name changes, and venue duplication may have influenced sampling weights. Store price comparisons were restricted by the absence of displayed prices in most small stores. Additionally, the assessment of healthy entrées in restaurants was limited by the lack of nutrition information or menu icons denoting healthy items in most restaurants.
These findings can be used to develop strategies to help customers choose healthier options. Stores and restaurants could increase the availability of healthy foods and promote the healthy foods they offer. Promotion strategies could include encouraging healthy eating through signage, providing menu icons to denote healthy dishes in restaurants, assigning healthier beverages as the default for kids’ menus, or placing healthier foods in more prominent locations in stores. Improving the availability, pricing, and promotion of healthier options in stores and restaurants could help efforts to increase consumption of healthful foods in Guam.
The authors gratefully acknowledge contributions from Guam DPHSS staff, including Roselie Zabala, Lawrence Alam, Elizabeth Guerrero, Alexis Silverio, Ruby Gonzales, Christopher Surla, Diana Santos, Cherisse Santiago, Vivian Pareja, Juan Santiago, Rachel Ramirez, and Venancio Imanil, as well as students and staff at the University of Guam and Guam Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–Education (SNAP–Ed). This work was funded through an Epidemiologic Assistance (Epi-Aid) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is no funding to disclose.
Corresponding Author: Elizabeth A. Lundeen, PhD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341. Telephone: 770-488-6517. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Affiliations: 1Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia. 2Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia. 3Bureau of Community Health Services, Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services, Mangilao, Guam.
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