Assessing How the Trenton Farmers' Market Impacts Health

Using health impact assessments to increase understanding of the linkages between public markets and community health

From 2005 to 2006, staff at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health conducted a health impact assessment to investigate how public markets affect the health of communities. As its study site, staff selected the 60-year-old Trenton Farmers' Market in Trenton, N.J.

Health impact assessment is a multidisciplinary approach to evaluating the positive and negative health effects of policies and programs that are outside traditional public health concerns, such as urban development projects.

Key Findings: In Health Impact Assessment of Modifications to the Trenton Farmers' Market, project team members identified five pathways through which changes to the market could impact health (nutrition, physical activity, economics, social capital and public health services). They then analyzed three alternative policy scenarios for their impact in these areas:

  • Policy One: no change or minor changes such as improved lighting, new wiring and new exterior doors—probably would not significantly impact health.
  • Policy Two: a major remodeling and expansion—could yield significant health benefits through its impact on the economy and social capital, but by itself probably would not improve consumption of healthy foods.
  • Policy Three: improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables through market outreach and satellite markets—was most likely to improve nutrition among market patrons.

The project team concluded that:

  • None of the alternatives is likely to change food consumption patterns unless augmented by other tactics to encourage behavior change, such as coupons and nutrition education.

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