A new study using Pop-Up health check stations found a possible link between ‘unhealthy’ shopping centers and cases of high blood pressure.
In the study, researchers from City, University of London set up the one day Pop-Up health check stations in seven shopping centers across England, and invited passers-by to have a test to screen for signs of the eye disease, glaucoma. .
Blood pressure readings were also offered 50 per cent of the time to attract potential volunteers with a more comprehensive and familiar health screening.
It is well known that persistent high blood pressure (hypertension) can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions including heart attack, and stroke.
The research team classed retail outlets in shopping centres as ‘unhealthy’ if they were either a fast-food takeaway, a bookmaker, a tanning salon or a payday loan business, in line with a Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) report ranking UK town and city shopping centres based on their ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ retail outlets.
The researchers also produced a basic score of each shopping centre’s ‘unhealthiness’, which was the proportion of ‘unhealthy’ retail outlets open on the day of testing relative to the total number of retail outlets open in the shopping centre.
The Pop-Up health check stations were set up in four shopping centres from the top 10 ‘unhealthiest’ shopping centres from the RSPH ranking, and three from the top 15 ‘healthiest’ shopping centres in the ranking.
On analysis, the researchers found a link between the number of adult volunteers recorded as having suspected or diagnosed high blood pressure (repeat blood pressure readings at or above 140/90 mmHg) and the ‘unhealthiness’ score they had developed for each shopping centre, which was a statistically significant result.
They also found that in the three ‘healthy’ shopping centres sampled from the RSPH report ranking (Bristol, Cambridge and Nottingham), 20 out of 152 adults (13.1%) were flagged as having readings of high blood pressure on repeat testing.
In the four ‘unhealthy’ shopping centres sampled (Coventry, Preston, Northampton, Stoke-on-Trent), 45 out of 199 adults (22.6%) had readings of high blood pressure.
The difference in the proportion of readings of high blood pressure in ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy’ shopping centres was also a statistically significant result, translating into a 72 per cent increased likelihood of suspected or diagnosed high blood pressure being reported in an ‘unhealthy’ shopping centre relative to a ‘healthy’ shopping centre.
The findings may point to strategies for targeted outreach testing and screening of blood pressure in shopping centres that could be the subject of further investigation, potentially in the context of reducing health inequalities.
The study is published in the journal BMC Public Health.
Source: City University London.