Perceived Availability of Healthy and Unhealthy Foods in the Community, Work, and Higher Education Settings across Five Countries: Findings from the International Food Policy Study 2018.
BACKGROUND: Food environments play a key role in dietary behavior and vary due to different contexts, regulations, and policies. OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to characterize the perceived availability of healthy and unhealthy foods in 3 different settings in 5 countries. METHODS: We analyzed data from the 2018 International Food Policy Study, a cross-sectional survey of adults (18-100 y, n = 22,824) from Australia, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom (UK), and the USA. Perceived availability of unhealthy (junk food and sugary drinks) and healthy foods (fruit or vegetables, healthy snacks, and water) in the community, workplace, and university settings were measured (i.e. not available, available for purchase, or available for free). Differences in perceived availability across countries were tested using adjusted multinomial logistic regression models. RESULTS: Across countries, unhealthy foods were perceived as highly available in all settings; in university and work settings unhealthy foods were perceived as more available than healthy foods. Australia and Canada had the highest perceived availability of unhealthy foods (range 87.5-90.6% between categories), and the UK had the highest perceived availability of fruits and vegetables for purchase (89.3%) in the community. In university and work settings, Mexico had the highest perceived availability for purchase of unhealthy foods (range 69.9-84.9%). The USA and the UK had the highest perceived availability of fruits and vegetables for purchase (65.3-66.3%) or for free (21.2-22.8%) in the university. In the workplace, the UK had high perceived availability of fruits and vegetables for purchase (40.2%) or for free (18.5%), and the USA had the highest perceived availability of junk food for free (17.3%). CONCLUSIONS: Across countries, unhealthy foods were perceived as highly available in all settings. Variability between countries may reflect differences in policies and regulations. Results underscore the need for the continuation and improvement of policy efforts to generate healthier food environments.