Correlates of English local government use of the planning system to regulate hot food takeaway outlets: a cross-sectional analysis.
The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity 2019 ; 16: 127.
PubMed ID : 31818307
Greater neighbourhood takeaway food outlet access has been associated with increased takeaway food consumption and higher body weight. National planning guidelines in England suggest that urban planning could promote healthier food environments through takeaway food outlet regulation, for example by restricting the proliferation of outlets near schools. It is unknown how geographically widespread this approach is, or local characteristics associated with its use. We aimed to address these knowledge gaps.
We used data from a complete review of planning policy documents adopted by local government areas in England (n = 325), which contained policies for the purpose of takeaway food outlet regulation. This review classified local government area planning policies as having a health (diet or obesity) or non-health focus. We explored geographical clustering of similar planning policies using spatial statistics. We used multinomial logistic regression models to investigate whether the odds of planning policy adoption varied according to local characteristics, for example the proportion of children with excess weight or the current number of takeaway food outlets.
We observed clusters of local government areas with similar adopted planning policies in the North East, North West, and Greater London regions of England. In unadjusted logistic regression models, compared to local government areas with the lowest, those with highest proportion of 10-11 year olds with excess weight (OR: 25.31; 95% CI: 6.74, 94.96), and takeaway food outlet number (OR: 54.00; 95% CI: 6.17, 472.41), were more likely to have a health-focused planning policy, than none. In models adjusted for deprivation, relationships for excess weight metrics were attenuated. Compared to local government areas with the lowest, those with the highest takeaway food outlet number remained more likely to have a health-focused planning policy, than none (OR: 16.98; 95% CI: 1.44, 199.04). When local government areas were under Labour political control, predominantly urban, and when they had more geographically proximal and statistically similar areas in the same planning policy status category, they were also more likely to have health-focused planning policies.
Planning policies for the purpose of takeaway food outlet regulation with a health focus were more likely in areas with greater numbers of takeaway food outlets and higher proportions of children with excess weight. Other characteristics including Labour political control, greater deprivation and urbanisation, were associated with planning policy adoption, as were the actions of similar and nearby local government areas. Further research should engage with local policymakers to explore the drivers underpinning use of this approach.