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close this bookFood, Nutrition and Agriculture - 10 - Nutrition Education (FAO - FPND - FAO, 1994)
close this folderLes interventions dans la communication sociale en nutrition
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View the documentInterventions in social communication on nutrition
View the documentLas intervenciones en la comunicación social sobre nutriciónH

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 community’s 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 nutrition.

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 plan.

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 programme’s 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 nutrition.