The government needs to ditch campaigning in favour of “social marketing” if it really wants to get its message about diet and health across to consumers.
This was advice given by health and social marketing experts at the Westminster Diet and Health forum on the Choosing a Better Diet plan.
Speaking during a panel discussion on how to communicate the message to consumers, Dr Jeff French, project director, national social marketing strategy for health at the National Consumer Council, advocated greater use of “social marketing”.
“At the moment, we have a government-led, top-down, generalist approach. We need to get to a consumer-led, partnership approach that is targeted at particular elements of the community.Most people know lots about what they should do. The issues are more about attitude and behaviour.”
Patients in hospitals, children, older consumers and people from the ethnic minorities were among those who were either not getting the message or access to healthier diets, the delegates were told.
French called on the food and drink industry to get involved in framing the message “as products that people will buy into”. He said the message needed to be co-ordinated far more effectively. “Even if we are generous, we can’t describe the current system as joined up. We don’t use powerful mediums of communication, yet we have them. It’s a national scandal.
“It’s also important to work with industry on these issues. The amount government can invest is very small compared to what industry can. The challenge is to build an active partnership with the industry to tackle this issue.
“We need to move away from evaluating the problem to developing a system to help people change their behaviour.”