When information is limited to 30sec soundbites or 140 characters, its difficult to accurately convey necessary knowledge en masse. Whether it is found in social media platforms or in peer-reviewed journals, the outlet targets a specific type of reader and they are not one and the same. Therefore, the public’s general knowledge on specific topics eg. science issues, are limited. For example, are foods safe to eat when grown with pesticides? Do you need to eat a multi-vitamin supplement? A wide space of information is lacking for the public to understand the benefits or the detrimental effects of scientific topics such as fracking, world population, or prevention of non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc). A Pew Research study show 40% difference between the public’s opinion and scientists in the safety of eating foods grown with pesticides.
Despite multiple public health campaigns for smoking cessation or lowering heart disease, the sales profit in the tobacco industry still flourishes and the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables are not seen in the school canteen or the most popular ordered item on a restaurant menu. We don’t hear about the next “it” restaurant opening serving braised kohlrabi and flax. The average American only eats one fruit and one or two vegetables a day which is substantially lower than the recommended 5/day or the “at least 8” servings of fruits and vegetables touted by some current researchers. The average UK adult eats 4 portions of fruits and vegetables.
Improved behaviours are documented as a result of intervention studies -where an action is taken to improve a situation- are dependent of varying degrees of intervention intensity either via primary care givers or community support. Interventions by the way of primary care were more effective for smoking cessation when compared with diet and physical activities using community support group intervention methods. Information to a specific targeted group whether it is focused for pregnant women, men with gray hair or diabetic children should be clear and concise. BUT the onus of comprehending the information and taking action is upon each individual because no matter how many pictures or recipes for kohlrabi* are shown, it does not translate to a greater consumption of the vegetable. TAKE ACTION!
Leshner AI. Bridging the opinion gap. Science 30 January 2015: 459.
Taggart J, Williams A, Dennis S, Newall A, Shortus T, Zwar N, Denney-Wilson E, Harris MF. A systematic review of interventions in primary care to improve health literacy for chronic disease behavioral risk factors. BMC Fam Pract. 2012 Jun 1;13:49.