Dr Thomas Astell-Burt and Dr Xiaoqi Feng, senior faculty at the University of Wollongong, have been working with the WSD initiative to geo-map food accessibility within Western Sydney.
This has plotted the availability of healthy food in comparison to energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods within walking distance of residences.
The research has identified so-called 'food deserts' where healthy food is not easily available and also that areas with higher rates of type 2 diabetes have fewer healthy food options for the people who live there. The resulting maps have contributed to explaining the inequality in health outcomes between areas of differing socio-economic status within Sydney. For example, residents in Blacktown have a three times greater risk of developing diabetes than in more affluent coastal suburbs such as Mosman.
This research has significant implications for the way we plan communities. Jobs, transport and urban amenities are key features of urban planning; however health should also be a priority. By increasing access to green space and fresh food, it will be possible to reduce the rates of lifestyle-related diseases like type 2 diabetes.