I heard an interview on the radio today with Rupal Sanghvi, the founder of HealthxDesign (“Healthy By Design”), an initiative she launched in 2010 after a decade of work with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
During her years in the field, Sanghvi observed numerous instances in which people developing public health solutions overlooked contextual factors that were contributing to the problem. In clinics, for example, she saw how redesigning ventilation systems, retrofitting inefficient lighting, or choosing different building materials could improve
treatment conditions and accessibility, but these things were rarely addressed. Likewise, in supermarkets, features like store layout and air temperature can influence purchasing decisions, but food access initiatives often stop short of such nuances of structural design.
“Standard supermarkets are designed to promote consumption of foods that are high in sugar and preservatives,” explains Sanghvi, “because those are the high-margin items that maximize profit.” According to current guidelines, in an average 10,000-square-foot supermarket, only 500 square feet must be utilized for fresh produce. If the U.S. spends millions to build supermarkets according to the conventional mold, she argues, we may see some improvement in public health simply as a result of increased access to food, but we stand to achieve far better outcomes if we first reconsider supermarket design itself.
This is a great point being made about how our environment has a huge impact on our behavior, as well as corporate responsibility for health and wellness, and not just profits. This seems especially important for food stores, and I’m glad to see somebody taking up the cause.