The Assessing the Nutrition Environments in Wisconsin Communities (ANEWC) project team is collaboration of academic, public health and community partners with a goal of evaluating a community based intervention to improve the nutrition environment and promote healthy eating. The project team includes the University of Wisconsin Department of Population Health Sciences and Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin Partnership for Activity and Nutrition, the Waupaca NuAct coalition and the Portage County CAN coalition.
Questions and Answers
We are particularly proud of the ANEWC study. It exemplifies collaboration between academics, public health and community partners to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the nutrition environment in Wisconsin and to help identify effective strategies to reduce obesity rates through changes in the nutrition environment. With funding from the Wisconsin Partnership Program, our project built on the infrastructure of the Survey of Health of Wisconsin and benefited from the combined efforts of the University of Wisconsin Department of Population Health Sciences and Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and the Wisconsin Activity and Nutrition (WIPAN), Waupaca’s NuAct, and Portage County coalitions. We counted on input from the Wisconsin Grocer’s Association and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and capitalized on the passion and energy of countless MPH students from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, who traveled and visit restaurants and storess throughout the state to collect nutrition environment data using ground-truthing and direct observation methods. We also had students helping to develop the Waupaca Eating Smart logic model and related intervention and evaluation materials. Finally, several students completed their MPH capstone projects around different aspects of the ANEWC project, including policy analyses, systematic reviews, intervention toolkits (Order Up Healthy and Check Out Healthy), and program evaluation. It was a real team effort with many, many players, and, along with other initiatives in Wisconsin, I think it has helped to move our obesity prevention agenda forward.
- Pricing strategies, such as subsidizing the cost of healthier foods or increasing the price of unhealthy foods, can be very challenging for restaurants and food stores. This is because restaurants and food stores have very narrow profit margins and their items are priced according to particular expenses. With low profit margins, the WRA states, “it may only take a small increase in costs to wipe out a restaurant’s bottom line.” Thus it is essential for public health practitioners to understand that if a “healthy” product is not selling/making money, the restaurant or food store cannot keep offering the product.
- Partner with industry! They are experts in the businesses we try to target with our interventions. They have many valuable insights and perspectives that will improve public health food environment interventions. Order up Healthy and Check Out Healthy offer a plehtora of suggestions on how to approach and work with industry partners, such as grocers, distributors, and restaurant operators. Considering the industry’s perspective is essential to make sure we select strategies that are viable and sustainable.
- Before approaching or working with industry partners, understand the industry. Showing a restaurateur or grocer you understand their business and perspective will help you sell your intervention. One restaurateur told us that we have a two minute span to sell our idea-and if we do not disclose how our intervention is going to benefit their restaurant, it is going to be a very hard sell.