Archive for October, 2013

Saturated fat pledge – a cause for celebration?

October 31, 2013

The pledge by a number of large food producers and retailers to reduce the levels of saturated fat in the food that they sell, has been met with a foray of criticism by food policy experts.  The argument goes that it is such a small step that the impact on the health of the nation will be minute, if that. What followed were calls for tighter regulation and binding laws on the make-up of food.

It comes down to the age old argument on how far should the state intervene? Is a pledge enough? Should it come down to regulation from the top down or should it be about changing people’s behaviour from the bottom up? Should it be a mix of both?

These core arguments (the Libertarian Paternalist Vs. Hard Paternalist) underpin the obesity debate and the recent furore around the saturated fat pledge has opened the old war wounds many of us in The Campaign Company’s office bear from our own internal debate on the matter.

The Libertarian Paternalist believes in the role of ‘nudging’ in order to make it easier for people to make healthier choices, whilst the Hard Paternalist believes citizens have the right to regulate and remove the choices available to limit that behaviour for the greater good.

We managed a childhood obesity project in Camden which looked at these very arguments. Camden tested a number of childhood obesity initiatives; on one hand we had the Hard Paternalist policy of banning every drink apart from water on school premises, and on the other hand we had the Libertarian Paternalist in the context of the Healthy Food Commitment by businesses electing to make manageable changes in the make-up of their food (such as reducing salt, reducing oil, changing oils and single frying chips).

Our research for the childhood obesity project revealed that businesses were instinctively suspicious of state intrusion but were receptive to a policy like the Healthy Catering Commitment which allowed them to make manageable but meaningful changes. Moreover a core recommendation that came from our research with businesses was the need for a conciliatory two way dialogue with business owners to involve them in the change process.

For me, the hard paternalists have crowded the media ground around the saturated fat pledge, and that this attitude, to criticise and impose instead of involving is dangerous. For Nestle – a food giant that has built itself on high saturated fat products like chocolate – to actually commit to changing the make-up of one of their most loved products, KitKats, cannot be underestimated.

In the same way that people need to change their behaviour, nudged here and there, we should of course have the same expectation of businesses – but it is unrealistic to expect sudden and dramatic changes, an expectation that we do not have on the public.

Prochaska and Di Clemente wrote a Transtheoretical model of change which has been used for developing effective interventions to promote health behaviour change. In their work they identify 5 stages of change that people move through in trying to change their behaviour. “Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change.” The stages describe a person’s motivational readiness or progress towards modifying the problem behavior. The stages are as follows:

1/ Pre contemplation (aware of need to change but not interested)

2/ Contemplation (considering change but undecided)

3/ Preparation (ready to start taking action, taking small steps towards changing behaviour)

4/ Action (behaviour has changed and action is taken to strengthen their commitment to change)

5/ Maintenance (change is now integrated into their being)

Can’t the same stages of change be applied to businesses? Don’t businesses need to go through similar stages in order to change their own behaviour? I would argue that at this point, businesses are in the ‘preparation’ stage – trying to put in place measures to change behaviour. We as behaviour change professionals, have a responsibility to put the same emphasis on engaging with businesses just as we put emphasis on engaging with the public as being key to any behaviour change model for obesity and heart disease. By involving them in the process we can hopefully support businesses through the remaining stages of change.

So why not celebrate the saturated fat pledge for what it signifies in the cycle of behaviour change for businesses?

Rosanna Post is a Project Officer for The Campaign Company.

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Young women and cigarettes – will a targeted product ban work?

October 24, 2013

Every year in the UK, an estimated 205,000 children start smoking. In light of the European MPs plan to tighten tobacco regulations, it is clear that the changes in selling laws has been created with young people in mind. Mary Honeyball MEP comments that the increase of childhood smoking is “an area where Europe lags behind other parts of the world, and one where clear action is required”.

The Labour MEPs celebrate that “perfume” and “lipstick” cigarette packaging, which was originally aimed at girls and young women, are to be banned. Glamourising smoking by the packaging shows how industry has targeted young women making them almost 2.1 times more likely than men to take up the habit.

However, should it be an element of education of young people to stop smoking as well as the added publicity of the health risk that goes along with lighting up?

A study conducted by Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) shows that 2012, 31% of young people wish to kick the addiction and 74% of children have tried one or more ways to stop . This then supports the findings that drug education, when interactive and directed at youths, decreases levels of smoking. This then draws up the question: if more compulsory health education surrounded smoking would it stamp out the habit for good?

The ban of flavoured cigarettes is also thought to target the younger spectrum of smokers. This is due to the view that the flavours such as chocolate, vanilla and clove are a “gateway” into an addiction. It is also thought that the flavoured – specifically menthol- are harder to give up therefore creating a more harmful situation.  The NHS and NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) conducted a study that proved if a young person is exposed to increased levels education on the topic that is supported by a form of mass media; they are less likely to start smoking. That being said, creates a question of whether different varieties of cigarettes need to be banned to prevent young people from smoking? By using an element of Social Learning Theory – where the person learns in a social context – children are then more socially influenced not to smoke creating a view that certain types of cigarettes don’t necessarily need to be banned.

The ban that will be in action as of 2016 plans to see fewer children starting smoking however, despite the health benefits of the ban, many MEPs were concerned about job losses in the industry or whether it would actually decrease the number of children and teens picking up a packet. Phillip Morris Tobacco Company suggests that with the tighter regulations, up to 175,000 people in Europe will be made unemployed and will cause 5 billion Euros in lost tax revenues, going against European Parliaments plans of tackling unemployment.

The soon-to-be ban on menthol cigarettes also disproportionately affects ethnic minority smokers. Just across the pond, the mint flavoured cigarettes are favoured by 80% of the smoking African-American population. Many black advocacy groups have voiced complaints that the European Parliament has not taken the preferences of minority communities into account when writing the legislation.

The legislation that has scrutinized the amount of advertising a company can have on their box to the amount of cigarettes we receive in a pack has created mixed reactions and opinions from many members of the public (and the TCC office!) who may be affected by the tightening of the regulations. However, will we actually see a decrease in youth smoking by taking away the chocolate flavoured cigarette or will the sales of regular cigarette’s increase?

Paige Salvage currently work shadows at TCC. Find more about what we do at the  The Campaign Company here. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

The New Electorate: Why understanding values is the key to electoral success

October 14, 2013

There is no better way to understand the power of the values prism than by exploring the alignment of voting behaviour and values. If the values theory holds water, there should be a clear relationship between core beliefs and voting behaviour. There is.

The New Electorate published by IPPR today, sets out the values electoral map and the challenges each main party faces in building a coalition of support.

Many commentators portray politics as a left right continuum with a centre point. But this cannot explain why, for example, some voters who believe in a more equal distribution of wealth shift from Labour to Ukip.

Using the values prism helps us understand the complete picture. One of the main findings from the analysis is that since 2008 the centre ground has not shifted significantly there are just fewer people on it. More people believe passionately in fairness, more are anxious about social change and crave security and stability and more people think there are too many welfare scroungers. It is therefore harder for any major political party to build a broad-based coalition.

All three main political parties have become astute at chasing Prospectors (the aspirant and pragmatic voter). They all get more support from this values group than you would expect if their support were spread evenly across all values groups. However, in different ways they find it harder to speak to the other two main values groups – Pioneers (focused on society and generally more post materialistic) and Settlers (focused on security, identity and belonging).

The Conservatives have always struggled to reach the Pioneers with the loudest values (those who care most about fairness). After wooing them before the 2010 election with compassionate Conservatism they are now pursuing a strategy based on a tough stance on immigration, welfare and the economy, which is designed to build support among Settlers and Prospectors, but is also pushing many Pioneers away.

During its time in office, Labour lost support among all values groups but they lost most support among Settlers. Today Labour has garnered the support of many former Liberal Democrat Pioneers but still struggles to speak to the Settler.

Who will win the next general election? Quite simply the party that successfully builds a values bridge to the values group where it currently underperform. For Labour this means talking convincingly to the Settler, who have becomes increasingly detached from their old tribal loyalties. Above all Settlers need to be convinced that Labour understands their concerns about immigration and to do this Labour must talk about immigration not just as an economic phenomenon but also as a social and cultural one.

Nick Pecorelli is an Associate Director of The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here