Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Research Article

Session 5: Nutrition communication Obesity and social marketing: works in progress

Symposium on ‘The challenge of translating nutrition research into public health nutrition’

on 18–20 June 2008, A Meeting of the Nutrition Society, was held at the O'Reilly Hall, University College Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, hosted by the Irish Section.

Georgina Cairnsa1 c1 and Martine Steada1

a1 Institute of Social Marketing, University of Stirling and the Open University, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK

Abstract

Internationally, socio-economic trends reinforce the complex physiological mechanisms that favour positive energy balance, leading to an accumulation of excess body weight and associated metabolic disorders. This so-called ‘obesogenic environment’ is characterised by increasing accessibility and affordability of energy-dense foods and declining levels of physical activity. In the face of such rapidly-rising obesity rates there is general consensus that strategies to address trends in weight gain must go forwards in the absence of complete evidence of cause or effective prevention strategy. Thus, strategy implementation and evaluation must contribute to, as well as be informed by, the evidence base. Social marketing research and practice has a track record that strongly indicates that it can contribute to both the evolving knowledge base on obesity and overweight control policy and the development of effective intervention strategies. Social marketing draws pragmatically on many disciplines to bring about voluntary behaviour change as well as requisite supporting policy and environmental change. Key objectives include: generating insights into the drivers of current behaviour patterns; important barriers to change; client-oriented approaches to new desirable diet and lifestyle choices. Social marketing recognises that target clients have the power to ensure success or failure of obesity control policies. Social marketing seeks to identify genuine exchange of benefits for target adopters of behaviour change and the advocates of change, and how they may be developed and offered within an appropriate relevant context. Social marketing adopts a cyclical approach of learning, strategic development and evaluation, and therefore is well placed to integrate with the multi-disciplinary demands of obesity prevention strategies.

(Online publication November 17 2008)

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author: Ms Georgina Cairns, fax +44 1786 466449, email g.a.cairns@stir.ac.uk