The (ir)relevance of framing nutrition education messages

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The (ir)relevance of framing nutrition education messages.

Brug J, Ruiter RA, van Assema P.

Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC Rotterdam, the Netherlands. [email protected]

Persuasive health education messages can either stress the positive consequences of performing a healthy behaviour (gain-frame) or the negative consequences of not performing a healthy behaviour (loss-frame). Based on studies on topics such as sun protection and breast self-examination there is evidence that messages in different action frames may differ in persuasive effects. Three randomised controlled trials were conducted to test framing effects in nutrition education on specific nutrition-related attitudes and intentions. In study 1, effects of gain-framed and loss-framed messages were studied among 152 adult education students on attitudes and intentions related to fat, fruit and vegetable consumption. In study 2 we confronted 149 regular students with differently framed messages related to a (more or less fictive) preventive dietary behaviour that was expected to be unknown to the study population, intake of flavonoids and risk for chronic disease. The impact on attitudes and intentions to use flavonoid-enriched spreads was studied. In study 3 we studied the effects of differently framed messages on attitudes and intentions related to more immediate and more personally relevant diet nutrition behaviour: folic acid supplement use before and during pregnancy among 100 female students. No significant differences in attitudes or intentions to perform the preventive nutrition behaviours were found between the gain-frame conditions and the loss-frame conditions in all three studies. The (lack of) effects were not moderated by factors such as perceived personal relevance, credibility or novelty of the information, or the perceived importance of the topic addressed. The results of the present studies suggest that action-frame choice has a very limited impact on the effectiveness of nutrition education in changing precautionary motivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-20
Number of pages11
JournalNutrition and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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