Stores can have a significant impact on community health. In many places, residents lack access to fruits and vegetables, but can find cheap tobacco and alcohol all too easily.
This has serious health consequences. In the United States, tobacco use, poor nutrition, and excessive alcohol use are among the leading causes of preventable deadly illness, including cancer, heart disease, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Communities of color and low-income areas bear the burden of these conditions, and not surprisingly, often have the fewest healthy stores.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Though the science is still evolving, theory suggests changing the retail environment can help prevent chronic disease. Stores that make the healthy choice the easy choice—by stocking nutritious items and deemphasizing tobacco and junk food, for instance—can help improve community health.