As my study abroad trip to London quickly comes to an end, it’s time to draw some final comparisons about how healthy eating is communicated to children and families in the U.S. and the U.K.
The communications strategies are very similar in the U.S. and the U.K. to tap into children and families about healthy eating. Like the U.S., messaging in the U.K. must be consistent and specific, age appropriate, make the behavior change of eating healthier attractive and messaging in the U.K. and U.S. should focus on small, easy changes to be effective.
Although the communications strategies to influence children about healthy eating in the U.S. and the U.K. are nearly the same, the communications techniques are taken to a new, more advanced level in the U.K.
Similar to the U.S., the U.K. has created programs that focus on small changes in local communities and schools. But in the U.K., those small changes lead to bigger, more impacting changes. Through my research and interviews I found the main reason the small initiatives and programs in the U.K. grow is because of government involvement and funding.
Tim Lloyd, head of Digital Communications at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), who previously worked for the Department of Health, helped me draw the most insightful comparisons about the government’s involvement with healthy eating initiatives.
He talked passionately about improving society and working toward making it a better place for everyone to live in. To do this, he mentioned the importance of working through society, such as targeting supermarkets to regulate the sale unhealthy foods.
Mr. Lloyd said the U.K. is suffering massive economic challenges and it is more difficult to create new programs to reach diverse audiences, but if everyone works together on important projects, the costs will be lower and it will be more meaningful in the end.
In addition, Gemma Webb, marketing and evaluation manager for the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service spoke about Parliament’s involvement with outreach activities and the different themes that are created to engage the public. She said they are currently working on a theme that will focus on healthy school lunches because of a public concern for making health improvements in society. Although this outreach activity is still being thought out, Ms. Webb said it is important because people should understand what Parliament does and its effect on health concerns in the U.K.
Additional findings and surprises
The U.K. takes initiative and isn’t afraid to change the way things used to be done.
- Banning packed school lunches to only provide healthy options to kids.
- Not allowing artificial food dyes in products such as Mac & Cheese/ Cheesy Pasta (U.K. listened to consumer outcry and made changes)
- Changing menus and only allowing healthy options (focuses on teaching parents, too)
- Making water fountains more attractive in schools to increase water intake
- Requiring nutrition facts to be labeled on the front of food packaging at supermarkets
Programs and campaigns are more effective because of government support and funding.
Best Practices on a global level
- Take a risks to make the best changes
- Collaboration is key
- Integrate efforts to reach more people and do less with more
- Be committed
- Make it easy to understand and visually attractive to kids and parents
- Accessibility counts
- Engagement builds trust with your audience
- Be genuine
- More committed
- Supports funding for healthy eating programs and regulations
- More consistent – locally and nationally from government involvement and outreach efforts
- Listens to people -Bans dyes and artificial flavors due to consumer outcry
Overall, the U.K. seems to care a lot more about improving society and making a positive social change. The country is not giving up because of the lack of funding. Instead, it is thinking of new ways to do more with less.
But, although the government seems to have a better handle on things, the deceiving advertising still exists. I learned at Mother, an ad agency in London, that if research shows people are not buying a product because of health reasons, the advertising will show the “health” benefits of a product, such as Pop Tarts with whole grains, even if the product is actually very unhealthy. So, it seems there is an obvious battle between the advertising and the government regulating the sale of unhealthy products.
Although, the U.K. still needs to improve with its efforts, it understands that changes need to be made to improve society. I am so impressed by the risks being taken to make improvements by banning packed school lunches altogether to improve the health of children.
As a professional, I have learned so much and have realized I have a true passion for social change and improving society. I was so inspired when I visited BIS and learned all about the changes they are undergoing to improve society. It is obvious they actually care about social welfare, and it is refreshing to know people understand what needs to be done and how to make changes in a suffering economy.