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Food & Health Survey, 2012 IFIC Foundation

Posted Aug 09 2012 6:30pm
The International Food Information CouncilFoundation (IFIC) is a Washington DC nonprofit that communicates science-based health, nutrition, and food safety information. Their annual Food and Health Survey grants insight on consumer attitudes towards food and health topics. It also highlights opportunities for improvement in consumer behavior by pinpointing areas of misinformation or confusion. 1,057 Americans ages 18-80 participated in this year’s survey, with results weighted by age, gender, education, race/ethnicity, and region. On June 7th, IFIC webcasted survey findings to listening health professionals.

Communication opportunities exist for health professionals to address disconnects between education and consumer understanding.

·         2/3 of Americans report being physically active, but only half of that group strength train. It’s important that health professionals stress the benefits of weight lifting as well as cardio. 

·         Calories rank first of the information consumers register from nutrition facts panels. However, only three in ten adults acknowledge that all sources of calories play an equal role in energy balance. The other adults believe calories from sugar, carbs, and fat are more likely to lead to weight gain.

·         The term “processed” carries with it negative connotations. Few (37%) believe that processed food can be healthy, when in reality, some processed foods can confer health benefits (ie: whole grains, fortified cereals).  
·         The understanding of dietary fats remains an evolving issue. Science shows certain fats may be beneficial. Meanwhile the media and collective memories of the 1990’s low fat mantra champion the notion that to eat fat is to be fat, and people consequently avoid fat in any form. Only 9% of survey respondents are trying to consume more mono and polyunsaturated fats.
·         Few Americans know how many calories to consume a day for weight management.
Encouragingly, there are health messages that have hit home.
·         More than half of survey respondents are trying to lose weight. The proportion of people putting forth weight management effort is higher in elevated BMI ranges. So those we expect should be making a stronger effort to manage weight seem to be doing so.
·         Most respondents agree that the USDA’s MyPlate graphic, which superseded the food pyramid, effectively emphasizes a variety of food groups for a balanced and healthful diet.
·         Technology may be the lifestyle coach of the future! Six out of ten individuals feel online and mobile tools help with weight management. A sentiment popular not only among the younger generation, but equally receptive among baby boomers.
·         2/3 of the surveyed population ponders whether foods and beverages are sustainably produced. While it’s heartening that the topic of sustainability is on the radar, only 1/3 of these mindful individuals are willing to pay more for sustainable foods. Taste and price reign supreme as the determining factors for purchase.
·         The nutrition facts panel was the most widely utilized information on food packaging until this year when it was debunked by expiration date. This possibly means that consumers are buying more fresh food items on which the expiration date is important to note. 
Health professionals can engage audiences with tailored messages
·         Over 80% of surveyed individuals would rather change lifestyle than take medication for health. Cease the silver bullet search! Postpone popping pills! The door is open to claim health with sound eating and exercise.
·         Individuals base a message’s credibility on its recurring appearance across multiple sources and venues. Sometimes the most pervasive and persuasive messages are not the most science-based. Therefore, the power of partnerships emerges as a key element of persuasion: nutrition educators, health professionals, and advocacy organizations should work together to spread convincing and consistent science-based health messages
·         Social media is a promising avenue to clear confusion across headlines, with the stipulation that health professionals consider who their audience is. In today’s culturally diverse society, messaging must resonate with clients by age, ethnicity, or other means.
·         Food is seen through different lenses: family gatherings, holidays or plain good times. Food messages must be in context from both a cultural and lifestyle standpoint.
·         Health professionals need to meet consumers where they are in terms of knowledge base, while at the same time giving credit for any steps they have taken to infuse health in their lives. Relating with consumers via candid conversations garners trust and establishes a sense of camaraderie. We all struggle at times to maintain health, and we’re all in this together.
For More Information
IFIC’s Webcast Slides
IFIC’s Executive Summary
Twitter handles: @IFICMedia, @FoodInsight
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