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Impact of the changing food environment on dietary practices of an Inuit population in Arctic Canada

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Abstract:

Abstract Background: 

Nutritional inadequacies and increasing chronic disease prevalence amongst Inuit in the Canadian Arctic highlight the need to address dietary practices. Research is needed to investigate the individual and environmental factors impacting diet to guide interventions. The present study aimed to explore multiple community perspectives of key factors affecting food choice and availability in Inuit communities in Nunavut, Canada. Methods: 

Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with Inuit adults (n = 43) in two communities in Nunavut, Canada, and included community members, community leaders, elders, health staff and food shop staff. The interviewer transcribed the audio-taped interviews. Data were analysed using codes and the constant comparative method to determine categories and emergent themes. Results: 

Thirty-three Inuit (27 females and six males) and 10 non-Inuit (four females and six males) adults participated. Traditional foods procured through hunting and gathering were considered the healthiest by community members, although multiple factors inhibited their procurement, including high petrol cost and decrease in traditional knowledge about hunting and gathering practices. Cost and quality were the main barriers to purchasing healthy foods at the shops. Community leaders and health staff identified multiple barriers to healthy eating in the community, such as skills to prepare some shop-bought foods. Shop managers identified several challenges to providing fresh produce and other perishable foods, such as long transportation routes that increase costs and harsh climatic conditions that may cause spoilage. They also cited factors influencing their decisions regarding whether to stock/discontinue certain foods, such as customers’ requests, food cost and shelf-life. Conclusions: 

An intervention to reduce chronic disease risk and improve dietary adequacy amongst Nunavut Inuit may be effective by supporting individual behaviour modifications with food environment changes.

Keywords: Arctic; Inuit; food choice; food environment; qualitative methods

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2010.01102.x

Affiliations: 1: Nutrition Research Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kannapolis, NC, USA 2: Center for Human Nutrition, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA 3: Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Aboriginal Services, Toronto, ON, Canada 4: Affiliation at the time of research: Department of Health and Social Services, Government of Nunavut, Iqaluit, NU, Canada 5: Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Publication date: October 1, 2010

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