Assessment of the Situation and the Cause of Junk Food Consumption in Iranians: A Qualitative Study
The consumption of junk food in Iran is alarmingly increasing. This study aimed to investigate the influencing factors of junk food consumption and amendable interventions that are criticized and approved by stakeholders, in order to presented to health policy makers. The articles and documents related to the content of study were collected by using the appropriate key words such as junk food, carbonated beverage, chocolate, candy, sweets, industrial fruit juices, potato chips, French fries, puffed corn, cakes, biscuits, sandwiches, prepared foods and popsicles, ice cream, bar, chewing gum, pastilles and snack, in scholar.google.com, pubmed.com, eric.ed.gov, cochrane.org, magiran.com, medlib.ir, irandoc.ac.ir, who.int, iranmedex.com, sid.ir, pubmed.org and sciencedirect.com databases. The main key points were extracted and included in a checklist and qualitatively analyzed. Then a summarized abstract was prepared in a format of a questionnaire to be presented to stakeholders. The design of this was qualitative (Delphi). According to this method, a questionnaire was prepared based on reviewing the articles and documents and it was emailed to stakeholders, who were asked to prioritize and choose the main problems and effective interventions. After three rounds, consensus was obtained. Studies revealed high consumption of junk foods in the Iranian population, especially in children and adolescents. The most important affecting factors include availability, low price, media advertisements, preference of fast foods taste, the variety of the packages and their attractiveness, low awareness and changing in lifestyle. Main interventions recommended by stakeholders include developing a protective environment, educational interventions, increasing healthy food access and controlling media advertisements and putting pressure from the Industry and Mining Ministry on producers to produce healthy snacks. According to the findings, the results of this study may be proposed to public health policymakers as an advocacy paper and to be integrated in the interventional programs of Health and Education ministries and the media. Also, implementation of supportive meetings with the producers of alternative healthy products is suggested.
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