Interventions in social communication on nutrition
For the past 20 years, there has been intense debate on the
strategies, objectives and methods of nutrition education. The traditional
conception of this form of intervention - a pedagogical one - has gradually
given way to an approach based on communication sciences.
Nutrition communication based on social marketing has had
positive results in terms of behavioural change. The following are some of the
recognized conditions needed for effective intervention.
· The definition of
messages and the choice of communication channels should be based on careful
studies of the needs, expectations and resources of the target community.
· The messages should be simple
and tailored to clearly identified population groups.
· The communication strategies
to be employed should be multimedia based and should include at the minimum an
interpersonal communication channel and a mass-media channel.
However, social marketing has its limits. The main criticism is
that it does not sufficiently reinforce the communitys autonomy in dealing
with its nutritional problems. New practices are called for so that communities
can be more closely involved in seeking solutions to their nutritional problems.
Social communication on nutrition exists in all human societies.
It represents the body of implicit or explicit rules that make interaction
regarding nutrition predictable. When the authorities in charge of public
health, rural development or community education embark on large-scale
nutritional education programmes, they set out to modify social communication on
nutrition which is sometimes the result of an age-long process of adjustment. To
undertake such a venture without the support and involvement of the communities
concerned is both illusory and dangerous. Actions in this area should be guided
by principles of equity, participation, comprehensiveness and rationality. The
following model can be laid out for all interventions in social communication on
The first stage is to analyse the nutritional problem that has
been identified, with the involvement of the target community. This analytical
or conceptual stage includes an in-depth examination of the motives behind the
human behaviour pattern that is to be influenced. It leads to the formulation of
a nutritional objective that is realistic and acceptable to the community.
The second stage is the formulation of the strategy to be used
to modify the behaviour pattern in question: definition of the communication
objectives, choice of communication channels and formulation of a multimedia
The third stage is the implementation: production of
communication aids, training of the parties involved and implementation of the
communication activities with the population.
The fourth stage is the evaluation stage. Although evaluation is
built into the implementation process, a modicum of resources should always be
earmarked for the evaluation of the programmes impact.
Apart from activities of limited duration which often take the
form of communication campaigns, countries and regions could envisage setting up
permanent monitors of nutritional practices. These would keep programme
authorities abreast of changes in nutritional behaviour and would guide their
interventions in social communication on