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Best practices for using natural experiments to evaluate retail food and beverage policies and interventions.

Authors
  • Taillie, Lindsey Smith1
  • Grummon, Anna H1
  • Fleischhacker, Sheila2
  • Grigsby-Toussaint, Diana S3
  • Leone, Lucia4
  • Caspi, Caitlin Eicher5
  • 1 Carolina Population Center, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.
  • 2 Office of Nutrition Research, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD, USA.
  • 3 Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, USA.
  • 4 School of Public Health and Health Professions, Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA.
  • 5 Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Nutrition Reviews
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2017
Volume
75
Issue
12
Pages
971–989
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1093/nutrit/nux051
PMID: 29190370
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Policy and programmatic change in the food retail setting, including excise taxes on beverages with added-caloric sweeteners, new supermarkets in food deserts, and voluntary corporate pledges, often require the use of natural experimental evaluation for impact evaluation when randomized controlled trials are not possible. Although natural experimental studies in the food retail setting provide important opportunities to test how nonrandomized interventions affect behavioral and health outcomes, researchers face several key challenges to maintaining strong internal and external validity when conducting these studies. Broadly, these challenges include 1) study design and analysis; 2) selection of participants, selection of measures, and obtainment of data; and 3) real-world considerations. This article addresses these challenges and different approaches to meeting them. Case studies are used to illustrate these approaches and to highlight advantages and disadvantages of each approach. If the trade-offs required to address these challenges are carefully considered, thoughtful natural experimental evaluations can minimize bias and provide critical information about the impacts of food retail interventions to a variety of stakeholders, including the affected population, policymakers, and food retailers. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Life Sciences Institute. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: [email protected]

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