Promoting consumer dietary behavior change through innovative communications

On May 7, at a forum on healthy eating, physical activity, and obesity, Robert Post, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), discussed the USDA’s innovative approach for encouraging Americans to eat healthier.

Until now most communication approaches for promoting the USDA’s dietary guidelines have focused on providing Americans with nutrition information. However, many people are still failing to meet these guidelines. The USDA’s new communication initiative supports the 2010 dietary guidelines and the newly released MyPlate icon, an update on the previous Food Pyramid. The initiative is built on a recognition that all elements of society influence the food and physical activity environment. Additionally, the initiative’s messaging includes a “call to action,” a message that encourages consumers to perform a specific action.

The communication initiative has four pillars that support MyPlate:

  • Coordinated consumer messages that are built on the themes from the dietary guidelines and provide directional, behavior-focused messages
  • Interactive tools and web based resources that help consumers learn about and personalize the recommendations
  • Partnerships that magnify the reach of the messages
  • Social and multi-media outlets that engage consumers in the food environment

Post said the goal of USDA’s communication initiative is to create consistency and maintain momentum by promoting selected messages over time. This involves promoting each message and related “how-to’s” for a specific period of time – and encouraging Federal programs and private sector partners to advance the messages, as well.

Post presented as part of Weight of the Nation: Moving Forward, Reversing the Trend, held May 7-9, in Washington DC. The conference, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is designed to provide a forum to highlight progress in the prevention and control of obesity through policy and environmental strategies.

For more information, see Post’s full presentation.

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