Rationale: The food environment affects diet, including access to healthy or unhealthy food options. Nutrition plays a vital role in cancer care. Cancer patients and survivors are at risk of poor clinical outcomes due to poor nutritional intake. Side effects of cancer treatment can affect eating patterns (1). This study aimed to evaluate the healthy food access and food environment of oncology patients.
Methods: The food outlets (n=68) around the oncology hospital was marked on the Google map, assuming 1000m as a walkable distance. Than food outlets were sampled (random.org) according to their distance (n=17). Menus were collected by the researchers, and nutrient content was evaluated by using the BEBIS programme. The Nutrition Environment Measures Survey in Restaurants (NEMS-R) was used to evaluate the nutrition environment of the food outlets.
Results: A total of 68 food outlets were found at a maximum distance of 1000 m from the oncology hospital; 9.83% of them were 0-350 m away, 44% were 350-700m, and 45% were 700-1000m. 86.89 % of the food service outlets were restaurants, and 13.11 % of them were fast-food restaurants. The average NEMS-R scores of the restaurants included in the menu evaluation were 4.76 (n=17). The availability of healthy choices was higher in restaurants than in fast-food restaurants (p>0.05). The means score of barriers to healthy eating according to the distance was higher in the nearest (0-350 m) outlets when compared to the further outlets (p=0.012). None of the restaurants had signs or information to encourage healthy eating. Only 11.76% of restaurants had a children's menu.
Conclusion: Maintaining healthy and safe food access for oncology patients is extremely important. To make a change in the food environment of a hospital would be a positive contribution to the healthier food access for oncology patients.