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Jun 16, 2020 Commentary
Health vs. hedonism: public communication of nutrition science

by Catherine Lockley

Do differences in narrative approach; hedonic language vs. scientific language, influence public perception and opinion of Nutrition and food consumption? Our study investigated this question using qualitative research via Focus Group (FG). The stimulus films and subsequent meals exemplified hedonic language and biomedical language respectively. The FG was chosen to elucidate alternative narrative tools for further research and public health communication. Five sessions were held over 4 weeks with 8–10 non-repeating participants at each session. Film clips were viewed in a dining room environment and food served in buffet style after viewing. 47 people participated in the focus groups (15 males, and 32 females [ages 18–78]). Recruitment was by social media, local news outlets, word of mouth, and printed material and followed up via email. Study eligibility included self-identifying as primary food provider/cook, being over eighteen years old, and providing informed consent. Qualitative content analysis and grounded theory was used for coding and analysis. Interpretive reading of the transcript identified manifest and latent content before a coding frame was arrived at based on the frequency of relevant categories. Cross-coding was undertaken and patterns identified according to our primary research question. Communication disparities suggested by previous research were confirmed in our findings with participants emphasizing that the personal impact of hedonic and psychosocial narrative on their personal food experience held greater weight than the ‘health’ narrative alone. We conclude that scientific nutrition communication paradigms are less effective than emotional narrative that engages passion, memory and deep feeling. The findings support a move towards nutrition communication strategies that incorporate wider human emotional experience through gastronomic narratives.

Volume 19 • Issue 03 • 2020