Healthy public policy is an important tool for creating environments that support human health and wellbeing. At the local level, municipal policies, such as zoning bylaws, provide an opportunity for governments to regulate building location and the type of services offered. Across North America, there has been a recent proliferation of municipal bylaws banning fast food drive-through services. Research on the utilization of this policy strategy, including bylaw adopters and adopter characteristics, is limited within the Canadian context. The aim of this study was to identify and characterize Canadian municipalities based on level of policy innovation and nature of their adopted bylaw banning fast food drive-through services.
A multiple case history methodology was utilized to identify and analyse eligible municipal bylaws, and included development of a chronological timeline and map of adopter municipalities within Canada. Grey literature and policy databases were searched for potential adopters of municipal fast food drive-through service bylaws. Adopters were confirmed through evidence of current municipal bylaws. Geographic diffusion and diffusion of innovations theories provided a contextual framework for analysis of bylaw documents. Analysis included assignment of adopter-types, extent and purpose of bans, and policy learning activities of each adopter municipality.
From 2002 to 2016, 27 municipalities were identified as adopters: six innovators and twenty-one early adopters. Mapping revealed parallel geographic diffusion patterns in western and eastern Canada. Twenty-two municipalities adopted a partial ban and five adopted a full ban. Rationales for the drive-through bans included health promotion, environmental concerns from idling, community character and aesthetics, traffic concerns, and walkability. Policy learning, including research and consultation with other municipalities, was performed by nine early adopters.
This study detailed the adoption of fast food drive-through bylaws across Canada. Understanding the adopter-type characteristics of municipalities and the nature of their bylaws can assist other jurisdictions in similar policy efforts. While the implications for research and practice are evolving and dynamic, fast food drive-through service bans may play a role in promoting healthier food environments. Further research is required to determine the viability of this strategy for health promotion and chronic disease prevention.