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world health organisation
obesity rates
government interference
fruit and vegetables
types of cancer
health conditions
pregnant woman
billboards
5 A Day Campaign Deemed A Flop
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There cannot be many people in the UK who are not aware of the 5 a day campaign launched by the Government to persuade all of us to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Since the 5 a day campaign was launched in 2002 millions have been spent on a variety of advertising including leaflets, billboards and posters. I was unaware until I read this that they had also employed advisers to go round telling people how to eat more fruit and vegetables.

For me there are several worrying issues about the 5 a day campaign. Over the past few years there have been a range of campaigns to persuade us all to lead healthier lifestyles. Clearly with obesity rates rising across the country, these different initiatives are largely failing. Successive governments appear unable to get their messages across.

In the case of the 5 a day campaign official statistics show that the number of people eating 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables actually fell between 2006 – 10 by 4 per cent. With so much money being invested no rational person could say that this is anything but an inexpensive flop.

What is harder to explain is why it has been a flop. The campaign was launched following claims from the World Health Organisation about the benefits of eating fruit and vegetable to prevent different health conditions including some types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, one study last year dismissed these claims. Whether many of the public is actually aware of this study seems unlikely, but it does highlight a problem that often occurs with government campaign. Too often the public are supplied with contradictory information and one moment something is unhealthy and then a few months later we’re told it is good for us after all. Any pregnant woman knows the frustration of contradictory government information

So apart from contradictory information, what else could possibly cause people to ignore the 5 a day campaign? It could be because people resent government interference in their lives, don’t trust the government, they don’t understand the message, don’t believe the message, don’t actually care about the message or can’t afford to follow the advice.

For me the reason is quite clear. The 5 a day campaign breaks well known rules about communicating effectively. The same message has been repeated over and over again, despite the fact that it’s clearly not been heard. Instead of repeating the same message over and over again and thinking there is something wrong with the public they should review the message itself to see if they can get a different response.

This is a basic psychological rule of communication and it surprises me that the government continues to ignore it.


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