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J Urban Health. 2007 May;84(3 Suppl):i118-29.

The health equity dimensions of urban food systems.

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  • 1National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Acton, Australia.


There is increasing recognition that the nutrition transition sweeping the world's cities is multifaceted. Urban food and nutrition systems are beginning to share similar features, including an increase in dietary diversity, a convergence toward "Western-style" diets rich in fat and refined carbohydrate and within-country bifurcation of food supplies and dietary conventions. Unequal access to the available dietary diversity, calories, and gastronomically satisfying eating experience leads to nutritional inequalities and diet-related health inequities in rich and poor cities alike. Understanding the determinants of inequalities in food security and nutritional quality is a precondition for developing preventive policy responses. Finding common solutions to under- and overnutrition is required, the first step of which is poverty eradication through creating livelihood strategies. In many cities, thousands of positions of paid employment could be created through the establishment of sustainable and self-sufficient local food systems, including urban agriculture and food processing initiatives, food distribution centers, healthy food market services, and urban planning that provides for multiple modes of transport to food outlets. Greater engagement with the food supply may dispel many of the food anxieties affluent consumers are experiencing.

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