Improving food and dietary behaviours is complex and evidence suggests that there is no single best approach, but that a range of strategies are needed which should be informed by consumer research. 6 7

Social and peer norms

Health behaviours which are shared with a social group, friends or family are deemed to be normal or ‘the norm’.  Healthy or unhealthy behaviours are acceptable to an individual if there is acceptance from peers (for example, eating fruit as a snack is a norm for some families). Shifting norms is an effective strategy to improving food and dietary behaviours, but requires challenges and changes to the attitudes of social groups. 8

Change4Life is a behaviour change program led by the NHS. The ‘We’re in’ campaign aimed to normalise good behaviours and publicise evidence of other people making positive change. To do this, sub campaigns with local and regional press were developed alongside commercial programs like Breakfast4Life. 9

Loss and gain messages

There is growing evidence to suggest that different people understand and respond differently to health messaging and associated health risks. Research from the United States has found that ‘loss framed messages’ (for example, ‘eat less meat’) resonate more with higher educated people, while ‘gain framed messages’ (such as, ‘by eating healthfully, people can gain positive body image or energy’) has a greater effect on people with lower levels of education.  Appropriate framing of messages therefore needs to be considered when designing targeted communications aimed at changing dietary (and other) health behaviours. 10

References

  1. The Parlimentary Office of Science and Technology, “Barriers to Healthy Food,” Houses of Parliment, London, 2016.
  2. D. McDavid, O. Adam and S. Merkur, “What do we know about the strengths and weakness of policy to improve health behaviours in the population,” WHO, 2014.
  3. B. Williams , C. Bhaumik and E. Brickell, “Life course Tracker,” Gfk NOP social research, 2013.
  4. Department of Health , “Change4life One Year On,” Crown Copyright , London , 2010.
  5. B. Wansink and L. Pope, “When do gain framed health messages work better than fear appeals,” Nutrition Reviews, vol. 73, no. 1, pp. 4-11, 2016.
  6. The Parlimentary Office of Science and Technology, “Barriers to Healthy Food,” Houses of Parliment, London, 2016.
  7. D. McDavid, O. Adam and S. Merkur, “What do we know about the strengths and weakness of policy to improve health behaviours in the population,” WHO, 2014.
  8. B. Williams , C. Bhaumik and E. Brickell, “Life course Tracker,” Gfk NOP social research, 2013.
  9. Department of Health , “Change4life One Year On,” Crown Copyright , London , 2010.
  10. B. Wansink and L. Pope, “When do gain framed health messages work better than fear appeals,” Nutrition Reviews, vol. 73, no. 1, pp. 4-11, 2016.