Julie Brimblecombe and Megan Ferguson
22 January 2020
The Healthy Stores 2020 study began in 2018 as a partnership between The Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA), who own and/or manage retail stores in the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland, and a team of researchers led by A/Prof. Julie Brimblecombe. The co-designed study introduced a strategy that restricted the merchandising of discretionary products, while allowing for substitute merchandising of healthy core foods with an aim to reduce the volume of targeted discretionary items, and free sugars, purchased. The results of the study, recently published in the Lancet Planetary Health and summarised here (report and infographic), demonstrate statistically significant reductions in free sugars from food and drinks purchased, with no adverse impact on store gross profit. Coupled with positive feedback from customers, community leaders, and store managers, and support from store owners, ALPA has now formally adopted the Healthy Stores 2020 strategy and has integrated the strategy into their nutrition policy, making them a world leader in healthy retail strategies.
Building on the evidence of Healthy Stores 2020 and careful review of other global evidence of effective in-store strategies, a series of policy actions has been co-designed with stakeholders to support retailers in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to inform their own evidence-informed store nutrition policies and adopt healthier retail strategies.
What is next for Healthy Stores 2020?
Sustained scale-up of best-practice policy across all remote food retail stores in Australia, requires a well-designed implementation strategy. Remote retailers and the Aboriginal health service sectors have called for benchmarking to standardise remote store operations for improved food security as evidenced in submissions to the parliamentary inquiry in to food pricing and food security in remote Indigenous communities. The next step for Healthy Stores 2020 is to co-design a benchmarking continuous improvement model with the remote retail, health service, and government policy-making sectors. This model will utilise the policy evidence and technologies that have been purposely co-designed with stakeholders to appraise and provide feedback to store owners on implementation of best practice policy in remote stores.
Healthy Stores 2020 demonstrates the commitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in remote communities in tackling the high prevalence of diet-related chronic disease through transformation of their community food retail environment. It further demonstrates how the research community can partner with the food retail sector to help champion this transformation.