The government’s plan to “nudge” the public into becoming healthier could fail because of the contradictory messages put out by advertisers and the media, a leading nurse academic has warned.
The government’s “Big Society” idea includes attempting to improve public health by providing incentives, or “nudges”, to quit smoking or lose weight, rather than through bans and regulation.
But Professor Anne-Marie Rafferty, from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London, warned last week that many behavioural incentives were “embedded in environments which are riddled with contradictions”.
Speaking at a King’s Fund debate on public health in London, she said: “Women’s magazines, for example, on the one hand have lovely pictures of gorgeous meals you can cook for your favourite dinner party guests, and juxtaposed with that is something about ‘we all must lose weight and have the perfect Elle MacPherson figure’.
“What can we do to reconcile these highly conflicting and contradictory cues that they [the public] get from the environment. It’s not just about lining all the incentives up.”