Saturday, December 15, 2012

Eat Right Intervention Critique - Leah Dickerson

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics strives to “improve the health of Americans and all people globally through food and nutrition” by advocating for Public Policy, child nutrition, obesity prevention, food safety, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other health and nutrition priorities (1). Their goal is to find “the greatest potential for motivating Americans to make eating and physical activity behavior changes” (2). However, the slogans, “Eat right”, “Kids Eat Right,” and “Your Food and Nutrition Source; It's About Eating Right” may hinder their desired goals (1).
According to reactance theory, the message to eat right could prompt a perceived loss of freedom, which would cause the target audience to do the exact opposite of the recommendations that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is promoting (3). The message focuses on health as the motivator and outcome, but health is not usually a driving force to keeping a healthy lifestyle (4). By utilizing the public health paradigm, health is the product that the target audience should want and facts and tips to eat right appeal to the desire for health that the Academy is positioning.

Critique Argument 1
 “Eat Right” is an explicit message. The target audience can assume, just from the slogan, that there is a right way to eat and a wrong way to eat. Public health interventions “have often approached healthy eating as a generic concept, assuming that its meaning is clear to and interpreted the same way by everybody” (5). The target audience is being told how to eat the right way by the Academy. However, research has shown that it is not effective to “treat health and healthy eating as universal concepts, understood identically by all individuals” (6).

“Health concerns, which are typically promoted by public health interventions, were specifically related with body weight control and natural concerns…to trigger sustainable eating behavior changes, health concerns may need to be positively related to social and biological incentives for eating” (5).

 By implementing dominance over the target audience, their freedom to choose what to eat is lost (3). According to the reactance theory, people do not like losing a sense of control (3). When control is taken away, reactance is induced. Reactance is the desire to reject the advocacy because of a persuasive message (3). A common response, therefore, is to restore freedom by doing the exact opposite of the intended result. In order to regain a sense of control, the target audience may “Eat Wrong.” By telling people to eat right, the target audience could assume that the way they have been eating is wrong, prompting a perceived loss of freedom.
Reactance is not only found in adults; kids at a very young age also have psychological reactants (3). The effectiveness of the “Kids Eat Right” campaign is also at risk of reactance. The billboard for the Kids Eat Right campaign states “Shop smart. Cook healthy. Eat Right” (7). The billboard is dominant and does not take advantage of the role that similarity can play in increasing compliance to the intended message (8). The intended audience for this billboard, although not overt, is parents. The combination of the increased degree of dominance and lack of similarity causes greater reactance and although the intended result of the slogan is to improve health through food and nutrition, a perceived loss of freedom is invoked (1).

Critique Argument 2
A health frame is the focus of the “Eat Right” campaigns. A frame is a way of packaging an issue so that it conveys a certain meaning and the “Eat Right” slogan utilizes the frame of health to express the Academy’s global nutrition goals (7). The value of health receives a lot of attention, but the health status of many people is declining, despite the importance consumers claim to attach to health (6). In 2010, only 14% of adults and 9.5% of adolescents consumed the recommended servings of fruits and veggies; in 2009–2010, 35.7% of U.S. adults were obese and 16.9% of U.S. children and adolescents were obese (9). Obesity and its staggering health problems are preventable, but health is not usually a driving force to keeping a healthy lifestyle (4). The Academy found that “parents have more pressing issues to deal with than eating healthy and exercising and they do not appreciate the fact that their long-term health is at risk” (2). Despite this research, health is still the focus of their campaign.

The “concept of health presents us with a paradox in the food domain. Health is a hotly debated issue … receiving attention from food industry, government, and consumers alike…Still it is striking that, despite all efforts in public health interventions and product development, and despite the importance consumers claim to attach to health, the health status of many people is decreasing” (6)

A frame represents shared beliefs, values, and perspectives that are important to a group of people and the messages should clearly resonate with the essential values of the target audience (10). Core values include freedom, acceptance, security, and opportunity (11). Health, however, is not a core value. A shift in framing would be effective, because without health, many values that are essential, such as freedom and opportunity, could be lost (12).

Critique Argument 3
The Academy utilizes the traditional public health paradigm by focusing on their intuition to appeal to the desire for health by selling the intended behavior of eating right (13). The Eat Right campaign is based on the assumption that the target audience is rational and that health is the goal that the target audience should want (14). In order to sell the product of eating right, the Academy is appealing to the desire for health.

Research has shown that health is represented “as an important value in consumer food choices, whereas actual food choices often do not reflect this importance, i.e. the paradox of health in nutrition. Addressing this gap between perception and behavior, additionally, opens up a new route to better understand consumers in order to be more successful in public health interventions” (1)

By utilizing the public health paradigm, the Academy has not focused on what is important to the target audience (13). The campaign is currently promoting health through facts and tips; significant research about what makes people healthier is an integral first step, but the implementation about how to empower people to improve their health is missing from the “Eat Right” campaign (15). The Academy is showcasing the facts about eating right and telling people that they should eat right, but the connection to motivate and initiate change in the desired behaviors of their target audience is missing (1). The slogan is based on the assumption that providing facts and telling consumers what to eat is significant enough to motivate a change in behavior through rational decisions (16). Since they are telling people that there is a right way to eat, the target audience will no longer engage in eating habits that are considered wrong. But, the effectiveness of the facts is decreased because the goals of target audience are not exposed; health is not the intended goal for the target audience (5). In order to change the behavior through healthy eating, additional motivators that are emotionally significant to the audience have to be utilized (15).
Defense of Intervention Section 1
Reactance to the “Eat Right” slogan needs to be addressed. The Academy should perform market research to make sure that the explicit message does not provoke a perceived loss of freedom from the target audience (3). The message is telling people how to eat, and an effective strategy to help persuade people to eat better should be more implicit.  The Eat Right slogan invokes reactants because it is explicit (3). Additional sources of reactance should also be reduced. Establishing a connection to their target audience would decrease the dominance of the message and the target audience will be more receptive to the campaign if similarity is increased (8).
The Academy could also improve the effectiveness of their slogan by using compelling reasons to reduce reactance. The reasoning with the most impact is emotionally driven and not rational or fact based (8). The current reasoning that the Academy is using is health based, which has not been proven as an effective strategy to reducing reactance, so the Academy will have to shift towards a more emotional message that their target audience will relate to (8).
The current “Kids Eat Right” campaign is promoted through billboards that are nondescript and factual, but research has found that involving kids in a healthy eating journey is more effective than just telling them how to eat (4). The campaign should increase the emotional significance by shifting from factual messages to interactive compelling reasoning that motivates kids to take ownership through healthy eating (3).
Defense of Intervention Section 2
Health is not usually a driving force to keeping a healthy lifestyle (6). Health as a frame is not the most effective strategy, but without health, it is difficult to have other core values that are very important (4) Strong core values include support, freedom, purpose, responsibility, and self-esteem (16). The Eat Right campaign should either emphasize that the absence of health will restrict core values or that core values are enhanced with increased health. Choices are susceptible to the manner in which options are presented and this shift in framing will effectively re-position the “Eat Right” campaign (10). The Academy’s campaign should be reframed to emphasize how the most important core values are impacted by health.
Instead of imposing the values that others should have, an effective Eat Right campaign is perceptive to arguments that match the current beliefs of their target audience. The slogan should be the link that reinforces their core values (15). For example, without health, the target audience will not have freedom. An effective strategy will empower the target audience to gain freedom, support, and control, and emphasize that with health, core values that are held in high esteem will improve (10). An effective “Eat Right” campaign will shift the message from telling the target audience what to do, to empowering their determination to achieve goals with the aide of sound knowledge and good health (16). Health tips and facts are no longer the central theme of the Eat Right campaign; the focus is shifted to empowering the consumer to achieve their aspirations with health knowledge. The whole frame is shifted towards empowering a responsible group effort (11).
Defense of Intervention Section 3
The marketing paradigm utilizes advertising theory to create and package eating right to fulfill the needs, wants and aspirations of the target audience (15). The Academy should utilize the marketing paradigm to shift their campaign from forcing a match between the target audience and intuitive needs to strategic solutions that the target audience actually wants (17). The campaign is then re-packaged so that it fulfills the needs and wants of the consumer through aspirations and by appealing to the more basic, core human values (15).

“To be successful, social marketers believe the product must provide a solution
to problems that consumers consider important and/or offer them a benefit they
truly value. For this reason, research is undertaken to understand people’s aspirations, preferences, and other desires, in addition to their health needs, to identify
the benefits most appealing to consumers” (17)

            Although aspirations can be achieved through health, health itself is not an aspiration (10). New habits are difficult to maintain and an additional motivator needs to be established to increase the acceptance of a new behavior, like healthy eating (1). Nike and many other successful companies utilize the marketing paradigm which focuses on extensive market research before determining what people want (15). The information is then repackaged and translated (18). The Academy of Nutrition could adopt a similar strategy by repackaging the raw data into that of a brand that conveys emotion and empowerment to the target audience, instead of just listing tips and ways to eat the right way. The most effective commercial advertisements are often implicit, but the majority of public health ads are explicit (7). For example, the Nike mission is implicit and empowering:


The Academy could use a similar strategy. Eating right has a rational appeal, but with effective branding, eating right could help the target consumer achieve their deepest aspirations (17). Lifestyle aspirational aspects of nutrition could emphasize what the target audience is currently doing compared with what they want or hope to achieve and could inspire the consumer go beyond their aspirations.

“The unique feature of social marketing is that it takes learning from the commercial sector and applies it to the resolution of social and health problems…social marketing is not about coercion or enforcement; the end goal of social marketing is to improve individual welfare and society, not to benefit the organization doing the social marketing; this is what distinguishes social marketing from other forms of marketing” (17)
The current campaign takes away freedom; a shift in the appeal would increase control. The emotional appeal of eating right would use cognitive dissonance as an advantage to showcase what the audience hopes to achieve through health, instead of emphasizing that the consumer has been eating wrong (3). Nike does not focus on product information and science claims for promotion. Instead, feelings that are induced with the product are emphasized (18). The “Eat Right” campaign focuses on facts, statistics, and figures and feelings of empowerment are not invoked (2). The Academy should gain a deeper understanding of a target audience’s needs, aspirations, values, and everyday lives to reposition the branding of their campaign and to obtain their global health goals (17).
Repackaging the “Eat Right” slogan could be an effective strategy to motivate and generate a positive impact (10). Reactance theory could be utilized to limit reactance to the slogan. The Academy should reframe their campaign by reinforcing the core beliefs that are important to the target audience. By utilizing the advertising theory, consumer goals and aspirations could be empowered by shifting the focus of the campaign from what the Academy feels that the target audience should want, i.e. health, to promoting what is really important to them, i.e. core values. The Academy can effectively motivate consumers by shifting their campaign from the public health paradigm that focuses on health to the marketing paradigm that focuses on empowering the target audience (15).


(1)  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112.12 (2012) 1917-2092 9 December 2012
(2)  ANDF Kids Eat Right CPE Webinar 11-15-12. 2012. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 9 December 2012.
(3)  James Price Dillard & Lijiang Shen (2005): On the Nature of Reactance and its Role in Persuasive Health Communication, Communication Monographs, 72:2, 144-168
(4)  Doak, C.M.;  Visscher, T. L. S.;  Renders,  C. M.; Seidell, C. M. “The prevention of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: a review of interventions and programmes.” Obesity Reviews. 7:1, 2006 111–136. 9 December 2012 <>
(5)  Ronteltap, Amber; Sijtsema, Siet J; Dagevos, Hans; de Winter, Mariët A.” Construal levels of healthy eating: Exploring consumers’ interpretation of health in the food context.” Appetite 59.2 (2012) 333–340 13 December 2012. <>
(6)  Rennera, Britta; Sproessera, Gudrun; Strohbacha, Stefanie; Schuppb, Harald T.“Why we eat what we eat. The Eating Motivation Survey (TEMS).” Appetite 59.1 (2012) 117-128 10 December 2012 <>
(7)  Eat Right. 2012.  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 9 December 2012. <>
(8)  Silvia PJ. Deflecting Reactance: The role of Similarity in Increasing Compliance and reducing resistance. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 27 (2005) 277-284.
(9)  Obesity and Overweight Factsheet. May 2012. The World Health Organization. 9 December 2012 <
(10)             Menashe CL, Siegel M. The Power of a Frame: An Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Tobacco Issue-United States, 1985-1996. Journal of Health Communication 1998;3(4):307-325
(11)             Certain Trumpet Program. Framing Memo: The affirmative Action Debate. Washington, DC: Advocacy Institute, September 1996.
(12)             CDC <> 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 9 December 2012.
(13)             Hicks JJ. The Strategy Behind Florida’s Truth Camaign. Tobacco Control 2001; 10:3-5.
(14)             Ariely, Dan. Predictably Irrational. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.
(15)             Marketing Paradigm. 2012 Help for non-profits. 9 December 2012 <>
(16)             Prevalence of Obesity in the United States. January 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 9 December 2012 <>
(17)             Grier, Sonya; Bryant, Carol A. “Social Marketing in Public Health” Annual Revue Public Health 26 (2005) 319–39 10 December 2012 <>
(18)    Nike, 2012. Web. 12/12/2012
(19)             De Martino, Beneditto; Kumaran, Dharshan; Seymour, Ben; Dolan, Raymond J.” Frames, Biases, and Rational Decision-Making in the Human Brain.” Science 313 (2006) 10 December 2012 <>
(20)             Gordon,Ross; McDermott, Laura; Stead, Martine; Angus, Katherine. “The effectiveness of social marketing interventions for health improvement: What’s the evidence?” Public Health 120 (2006) 1133–1139  10 December 2012 <>

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