Revolutionising food choices in Mexico
In Mexico, one of the most pressing public health challenges is the rising prevalence of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Approximately 75% of the population in Mexico is affected by obesity or being overweight.
The situation is particularly critical in the northern region of the country, the Sonoran Desert, which borders the United States. The dietary habits in this region are heavily influenced by the US diet, leading to dietary fat consumption levels that are 200% above recommended guidelines. The local population also faces the challenges of high temperatures and water scarcity, which contribute to the high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. This was evident in 2012 when the average person in the region consumed 163 litres of sugar-sweetened beverages annually.
The impact of these dietary choices is felt not only on personal health but also on the environment, as one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to the food system, including food production, processing, transportation, and waste.
The study aims to address these critical health and environmental challenges by evaluating the healthiness and environmental sustainability of the in-store food environment of supermarkets in the Sonoran Desert region.
The research will consider the social, economic, political, and cultural context in the local environment to develop evidence-based strategies to promote healthy and sustainable food choices. The ultimate goal is to prevent obesity and diet-related NCDs and contribute to global warming mitigation.
The study is structured in three main phases:
- Mixed-Methods Situational Analysis of the Food Environment. The first phase will involve collecting data on product types, nutritional quality, environmental impact, price, promotion, placement, and sales of food and beverage products available in local food stores in the city of Hermosillo in the Sonoran Desert Region of Mexico.
- Stakeholder Workshop. A stakeholder workshop will be conducted to engage with key actors, including food providers, supermarket staff, managers and directors in the food system. This phase aims to identify perspectives, barriers, and opportunities for healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets in the region.
- Optimisation Phase and Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). The final phase includes a multiphase optimisation strategy trial (MOST) in which interventions to promote healthy and sustainable food choices within local supermarkets will be optimised. The outcomes of the optimisation phase will inform a randomized controlled trial involving 60 supermarkets to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions.
The George Institute for Global Health, Imperial College London, Universidad de Sonora, and Supermarket Abarrey.