Dietary change during COVID-19: A population-based study in Atlantic Canada to build evidence for government economic and social policy responses
Consumer food environments have been transformed during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Early monitoring suggests people may be changing their consumer habits and dietary choices in unprecedented ways. Poor diet is already a leading cause of death and disability in Canada. Inadequate physical and economic access to food can have serious adverse effects on diet-related health and increase health care costs. Existing government monitoring in Canada will not be able to capture the dietary information we need to understand the breadth of dietary compromises being made, and the differential impact of COVID‑19 for different populations, including important risk predictors such as age, sex and gender, income, employment, receipt of economic relief, and rural residence. To respond most rapidly and feasibly with a robust study design, we will focus on residents of the four Atlantic region provinces, who have among the highest burden of diet-related chronic diseases and obesity in Canada. This study is based in methodological approaches from nutritional epidemiology but draws substantially from our expertise in spatial and social epidemiology, and health economics. It leverages Canada Research Chair-and national agency funded teams, with links internationally. This population-based research will help us to better understand dietary risks and disparities resulting from COVID-19. The evidence we build will support governments across Canada to design economic and social policies and population interventions to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19.