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Exploring the sources of information which might influence the delivery by health professionals of healthy eating advice: A discourse analysis
Project Code: FS244029_2
University of Hertfordshire
Diet in Scotland is known to require improvement and it is important that consumers understand how they can choose a healthier diet. Health professionals are often well situated to advise consumers about eating healthily and about the resources available to help them do so. In this sense, health professionals can act as gatekeepers for changing knowledge, beliefs and behaviour, so it is vital that health professionals are adequately prepared and supported to provide consumers with appropriate information on healthy eating.
Websites and publications were rarely unequivocal in their delivery of healthy eating advice. Four key themes emerged from the analysis of the resources:
- There is often inconsistency within and between sources about guidance on starchy foods and foods high in fat or sugar, whilst some sources might intend to convey nutritional science or core health promotion messages, inconsistent text could be perceived as flawed, confused or difficult to follow and, ultimately, dismissed.
- Many sources routinely use value-laden terms when delivering healthy eating messages.Such sources anticipate that the reader will share their values, which may not be the case and might encourage consumers and health professionals to dismiss the message.
- Sources do not tend to specify portions/portion size in relation to foods high in fat or sugar.Overall, information about limiting foods high in fat or sugar is open to interpretation based on health professional or consumer perceptions about what is ‘too’ much or ‘about right’. An alternative approach might be to consider advising consumers about the frequency of consumption of foods high in fat or sugar that would be appropriate across a typical week.
- The social context within which eating takes place is, on the whole, ignored.For example, few of the resources acknowledged that health is just one aspect of choosing a varied diet. It is important to consider how nutrition advice is perceived, received and used by the reader, without weakening the scientific argument. Future communication might include more ‘real life’ examples or case studies to illustrate how consumers have taken healthy eating messages on board.
This work has highlighted that there is considerable scope for improving the format and presentation of healthy eating advice aimed at health professionals and consumers.
This work relates to FS244029_1: Investigating how consumers and health professionals understand healthy eating messages. http://www.foodbase.org.uk/results.php?&f_report_id=753]
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