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  • Writer's pictureHannah Phillips

Parliament to Explore the Connection between Health and Food

October 16 is World Food Day. It is also the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation in 1945.

The day is celebrated widely by many other organisations concerned with food security, including the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

This year on World Food Day there will be a forum in Canberra to consider a ground breaking report. Bayer Australia, a subsidiary of the global Bayer Conglomerate, has supported research by Dr Michael Jensen from the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra.

The report is a comprehensive internet study of social media commentary on food, nutrition and health in Australia.

The report, ‘Discourse on Food, Nutrition and Health in Australia’, takes the perspective that, individuals, families, and communities have always engaged in some form of self-care, managing and preventing health conditions.

This includes caring for the sick, or otherwise needy, without the direct intervention of health care professionals.

These days, with widespread access to the internet, self-care is increasingly supported by online information- seeking and communications in online groups. This research looks at a variety of self-care discussions on Facebook, initiated in Australia, as well as information- seeking on health and nutrition topics via Google.

The data collected reveals distinctively Australian, rather than global, trends and shows evidence on the following topics: regional differences in health concerns; variances in the level of health literacy; the cyclical nature of health concerns; gender differences in concerns about nutrition and healthy eating; and changes in the salience of health concerns over time.

Once this data is given appropriate consideration then the intention is to reduce it to information that can be passed on to the public through the internet.

The objective is to correct misconceptions that prevail in the public space about the appropriate responses to health issues. Among the information which would be made available is contemporary developments in medicine relating to the efficacious treatment of medical problems.

This involves creating an online space that can be used to impart information and, at the same time, act as an adjunct to medical treatment.

Over time it is hoped that technology can be used to make the treatment of health issues more efficient while at the same time reducing the demand for expensive medical interventions. Bayer has been involved in these responses globally.

It has the capacity to develop a new approach to public awareness of health issues.

At the forum on 16th of October 2017, the intention is to engage politicians, health bureaucrats and others in the process with the aim of penetrating the public groups who are currently most at risk at a public health level.

One of the things the University of Canberra social media report will reveal is the intersection of social media awareness with the propensity for accessing health services. Once these groups are isolated it will be possible to develop approaches that appeal to their need for targeted information and provide it to them.

These issues will be thoroughly investigated at the forum in Parliament House on 16 October.

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