29 Jul supply side and demand side in nutrition
Interestingly, research shows that you can give people all the nutrition knowledge you like, it doesn’t mean they are going to eat any more healthfully. Behavioural change involves more input than just knowledge, it depends on other psychological motivators such as goals and values. It certainly depends on people’s socio economic situation, and how much control they have over their food choices.
There is a way to enhance nutritional outcomes however, and that is on the supply side. Governments can increase taxes on unhealthy foods, such as those that contain a lot of fat, to make them more expensive, and people will be less likely to buy them. They can also subsidise healthy options such as fruit and vegetables, to make those more accessible and more tempting to consumers.
The best approach, by all accounts is to blend these two forms of knowledge and process. To give people the education that lets them understand what foods are healthy and to support this from the supply side, by making these foods easier and cheaper to purchase, and other unhealthy foods, harder and more expensive.
It can even come down to town planning issues, where local governments can refuse permits for fast food outlets, on the basis that this forms a chain of supply, and restrict those food options.
Of course, this can be objectionable to some people, who want to eat what ever they want. Who want KFC and McDonalds, and who want to drink gallon after gallon of soft drink. This, they believe is their choice. Perhaps it is, but, this opens up the question about how to communicate with people and educate them, but also motivate them in terms of their personal health.
There is a plethora of literature on the sorts of psychology which makes people more motivated in terms of their own health. And a lot of this stuff can get rigid too. I know that when I read the Government Healthy Eating Guidelines, there was a lot of information in there, that rubbed me the wrong way, because what I had learnt before. People have cultural, intellectual and emotional ties to foods that they eat.
So, where does that motivation come from? To be physically active, and put in lots of raw fruit and vegetables in? It certainly makes you FEEL good! There is a sense of satisfaction to be gained from exercising and filling yourself with nutritional goodness, so how to translate this into motivation for the huge proportion of Australia who is trending dangerously towards obesity?
The Government paper did make one very important statement, which was that children of this new generation are the first to have life expectancies less than their parents, which goes to show, just what a pickle we are in!
This must be the job of a nutritionist, to take that little spot of sunshine, inside that sings when it is nourished with clean healthy food and translate it to the masses. The supply side is even more interesting. What we can make available? And by what process to move towards sustainability and public health?