Time to rethink health messages

THE poor marketing of food messages has pushed Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton to call for a reassessment to promote healthier choices among Jamaicans.

“We need a rethink — I’ve long felt that and I think COVID-19 would have reinforced that or at least provide the opportunity for us to rethink in the space, and I commend the Heart Foundation because a part of your advocacy clearly is in influencing influencers — journalists, bloggers and others,” said Tufton during the Heart Foundation of Jamaica’s (HFJ) Media Workshop at Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday.

“The rethink is that we exist in a space where people are distracted by all kinds of stimuli that is not just pertaining to what is factual but pertaining to the impressions we make on them, how we influence their choices,” he added.

Tufton said we are in a world of marketing and communication where “what is in drives what is done” and as a result our health messaging needs to be carefully crafted.

“It is really about how you position and how you influence perception. As influencers, journalists, bloggers, your goal, I would imagine, is to drive your position that will influence behaviour and that is why you are very important to this initiative,” he said.

He stressed that media practitioners have the ability to “package the truth” on a format that generates attention, stimulates discussion, and ultimately influences behaviour.

“We need to up the game in trying to influence behaviour. The challenges with our health profile is that it is not so much around clinical science any more, it’s around behavioural change and that is really what we’re about. We are distracted and we are not focused from a health perspective on the facts alone,” he said.

In May this year HFJ launched a ‘Protect Our Children’s Health Mass Media Campaign’, which was expected to encourage public support for the octagonal, front-of-package warning labels, particularly for those high in sodium, sugar, saturated and trans fat, to effectively help consumers make conscious choices.

On Wednesday, a fact sheet shared by HFJ indicated that in Jamaica there are currently no restrictions on the marketing/advertising of unhealthy foods to children.

Further, it said that the Children’s Code for Programming, monitored by the Broadcasting Commission, mandates all licensed television, radio, and cable providers to implement strategies aimed at limiting children’s exposure to potentially damaging media.

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