The effect of food deserts on early childhood development
Tran, Long Duc
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Food deserts were first mentioned in the early 1990s to describe an urban or rural area with low access to healthy, affordable foods. Thus, food desert residents often have trouble maintaining a healthy diet which puts them at higher chances of developing adverse health outcomes. Food security, the idea of having access to enough food for a healthy life, is often associated with food deserts. Food security studies including those involving children living in food insecure household have already provided strong evidence showing the harmful impacts it has on childhood growth and development. While numerous studies on food security and childhood development are readily available, fewer studies exist that provide any strong evidence between food deserts and childhood development. This longitudinal study attempts to make the association between food deserts and childhood development with the hypothesis that children living in food deserts are more at risk of poorer growth and development. The study recruits eligible household children between the ages of 12-14 months living in a known local food desert along with children in the surrounding non-food desert areas. The participants are tracked in clinic over the course of four years at six month intervals while measuring for the desired outcomes. The primary outcome in the study is mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC), though length/height, weight, and food security are additional outcomes that are measure during the study. The MUAC data is converted into a Z-score for both the food desert and non-food desert groups respectively. The mean change in Z-score for both groups is compared with one another using the independent sample T-test looking for statistical significance. The results of this study would address a large gap in the current literature on food deserts. Prior studies have employed a cross-sectional approach in looking at the data and have been limited in the strength of the study. This will be the first known study to propose a longitudinal approach towards looking at food deserts and its effect on the study participants. In doing so, this study hopes to provide new context on food deserts in the field of public health. The significance of such would allow public law makers to implement new strategies or policies that could address the detrimental impacts food deserts have in the local community.