HPP 175 May: Finding Food Deserts: A Comparison of Methods Measuring Spatial Access to Food Stores

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Public health research has increasingly focused on how access to resources affects health behaviors. Mapping environmental factors, such as distance to a supermarket, can identify intervention points toward improving food access in low-income and minority communities. However, the existing literature provides little guidance on choosing the most appropriate measures of spatial access. This study compared the results of different measures of spatial access to large food stores and the locations of high and low access identified by each. The data set included U.S. Census population data and the locations of large food stores in the six-county area around Chicago, Illinois. Six measures of spatial access were calculated at the census block group level and the results compared. The analysis found that there was little agreement in the identified locations of high or low access between measures. This study illustrates the importance of considering the access measure used when conducting research, interpreting results, or comparing studies. Future research should explore the correlation of different measures with health behaviors and health outcomes.

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