Measuring rural food environments for local action in Australia: A systematic critical synthesis review

Penelope Love, Jillian Whelan, Colin Bell, Jane McCracken

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Poor diet is a significant contributor to obesity and chronic disease. With all being more prevalent in rural than urban Australia, modifying the food environment is a potential intervention point to improve the health of rural populations. This review examined the applicability of measurement tools used in rural food environment research for rural Australia. Six electronic databases were searched for peer-reviewed literature, published in English between 2006 and 2018, including at least one objective measure of the Community or Consumer Food Environment in a rural or mixed rural/urban context. One-hundred and seventy-seven papers were returned after removal of duplicates, with a final review of 25. Most studies were cross-sectional, with one intervention study of quasi-experimental design. Nine studies employed a conceptual model; there was considerable variability in tools used; and few described psychometric testing. The most common attribute measured was price, followed by available healthy options. The findings of this review do not offer a suite of ‘gold standard’ measurement tools known to be reliable, valid and sensitive to change to assess the community or consumer food environments in rural Australian towns. However, recommendations are proposed to progress this important area of research within a rural context.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2416
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


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