Engaging the public in nutrition: extending reach and influence



The internet, social media and celebrities provide a plethora of information to the public about food, nutrition and health. This makes it hard for the public to make decisions about what is credible and what is not evidence based advice. Methods: 'Food as Medicine' was developed for the public with no prior science knowledge, delivered as a free Massive Open On-Line Course (MOOC) using the Future Learn platform. The three-week course covered topics relating to food, diet and health, aimed to give participants skills to synthesise and critique information about food and provide evidence based nutritional information. Over 63,000 participants from 158 countries enrolled, with the majority being Australia (41%) and UK (22%). Learners were predominately female, older than average MOOC participants: 22% being 18-35 and 40% over 56 years. Over half had not participated in an on-line course previously. Sixty percent were the target group (no previous academic or professional knowledge) with 29% reporting work or study in this field. Consistent with other MOOCs, over a third competed the whole course and spent 3-4 hours per week on-line. Over 100,000 comments were made by learners. Eighty two percent reported the course met or exceeded their expectations. Free open courses provide an opportunity to disseminate evidence based unbiased knowledge about food and health. This novel route of education has enormous scope and reach. More research is required as to their possible effectiveness as an education tool. Keywords: Education; Health-related behaviours; Food, nutrition; Communication; Community engagement 1) Free open courses provide an opportunity to disseminate evidence based unbiased knowledge about food and health. 2) Massive Open On-Line Courses are a novel route of education has enormous scope and reach. 3) More research is required as to their possible effectiveness as an education tool.


Tracy McCaffrey

Monash University