Group 4—Tools for Change

Chair: Dr Brooke Harcourt

People have a right to access good nutrition and have a say in their health care. But is the digital age that we live in working for or against people’s health? Rapid dissemination to the public of peer reviewed or even preliminary research is now possible via media outlets and social media forums. Weekly, there is information circulating about a new diet, a food that is bad for you, a miraculous ‘superfood’, the time of the day food should or should not be eaten. Sources of information are at people’s fingertips, empowering them to have a say in their health and medical care. But are we healthier for it?

Billions of dollars in Australia are spent on the diet industry and unchecked multivitamin industry as consumers strive for healthier bodies, yet overweight and obesity rates continue to increase.

Food beliefs challenge scientific knowledge and the ability to be a voice in Australia’s food environment is more significantly based on celebrity rather than experience in the recent decade. 

Food wastage is at an all-time high and food travels more distance than it ever has before to reach our plates. Agriculture and industry have developed ways to grow food with minimal water out of season and in an abundance, yet we still have areas of Australia where people don’t have access to fresh produce due to unavailability and cost.

Going forward, what if any role should government and policy have in the way in which people access information and how do we assist the public to access information that will benefit their health?

Questions to get you thinking;

  1. What are the positive and negative attributes of Australia’s current methods of relaying nutrition information?
  2. Who should we target nutritional messages towards to make them most effective?
  3. How can we make nutritional messages clearer?
  4. Is the nutrition industry in Australia transparent?
  5. What factors motivate key stakeholders; government, industry, communities and the individual, to achieve nutritional change/outcomes in Australia?
  6. What are the barriers against achieving nutritional adequacy in Australia?
  7. What mechanisms could we use (or create) to alter nutrition culture?

Recommended reading

Eric Topol 2015. The patient will see you now: The future of medicine is in your hands. Basic Books, New York, NY.

Or if you’re running short on time the concept is described in this book review: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/books/review/the-patient-will-see-you-now-by-eric-topol.html?_r=1

Examine how new technologies and citizen science are changing nutrition practice by looking at relevant websites eg https://www.crohnology.com/

National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines: providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council, Canberra: NHMRC, 2013.  Available from: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/

‘The findings of medical research are disseminated too slowly’ The Economist 25 March 2017 http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21719438-about-change-findings-medical-research-are-disseminated-too

© 2022 Australian Academy of Science

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