This article describes and addresses the challenges researchers face when utilizing natural experimental studies to evaluate changes to the retail food environment. Through the use of case studies, the article describes strategies and approaches for overcoming these challenges. The challenges are divided into categories of: 1) study design and analysis; 2) selection of participants, selection of measure, and obtainment of data; and 3) real-world considerations. Advantages and disadvantages to each approach are provided. Consideration of these challenges and best practices can minimize bias and ensure natural experimental studies effectively assess the impact of policies and programs on food access, availability, and intake for use by stakeholders, policymakers, and food retailers.
Best Practices for Using Natural Experiments to Evaluate Retail Food and Beverage Policies and Interventions
Assessing Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program families' online food purchasing behaviors to inform policies targeting expansion of SNAP benefits
Online grocery services may be a promising strategy to increase food access by creating systems that increase the self-reliance of communities to meet their food needs; however, there may be unintended consequences that should be considered. Despite the potential to increase healthier choices, individuals may purchase more soft drinks and … More
Point-of-sale nutrition information has been adopted by numerous grocery stores to respond to the demand for easy-to-understand nutrition labeling by consumers. Although there is conflicting evidence regarding the effectiveness of providing nutrition information, previous research indicates simplified shelf nutrition labels may lead to healthier choices. However, these studies have not … More
Summary shelf nutrition labels are one of a handful of practical strategies that hold the promise of improving nutrition and public health. Researchers used a difference-in-differences approach to estimate the effect of the NuVal shelf label—an interpretive numeric score, now defunct, that rated the overall nutrition of foods from one … More