Environmental barriers to and availability of healthy foods for people with mobility disabilities living in urban and suburban neighborhoods

Mojtahedi MC, Boblick P, Rimmer JH, Rowland JL, Jones RA, Braunschweig CL.  Division of Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL 60612, USA.  Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008 Nov;89(11):2174-9. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2008.05.011.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the impact of the built environment on access to healthy foods for people with mobility disabilities by measuring wheelchair accessibility of grocery stores and availability of healthy affordable foods.

DESIGN: A survey consisting of 87 questions.

SETTING: A low-income, multiracial urban Chicago neighborhood with a 3-mile radius was compared with a suburban neighborhood of the same size in which the population is similar in income level and racial distribution.

PARTICIPANTS: Not applicable.

INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Accessibility issues outside and within grocery stores and the availability of healthy affordable food items in these grocery stores.

RESULTS: The urban area had more stores (n=48) than the suburban area (n=34); however, only 46% of urban stores had an entrance that would allow an individual requiring a ramp or level entrance to gain access compared with 88% of suburban stores (P<.001). Wheelchair accessibility characteristics of grocery and convenience stores did not differ between the urban and suburban areas. The availability of healthy affordable foods in urban and suburban stores was relatively low, with only 33% to 40% of the 18 items available, and did not differ between urban and suburban stores.

CONCLUSIONS: People with mobility impairments are at a disadvantage in maintaining healthy food choices because of limited access to stores and healthy foods.