In our busy world full of easy conveniences, many consumers choose high-sugar, high-fat foods that are low in nutrients. Leading a healthy life is easy to wish for but much harder to attain in an environment with so many unhealthy choices so readily available.
These days, the matter of leading a healthy life is not a concern limited to just individual consumers. The ongoing pandemic, and its adverse impacts on the economic and healthcare status on the countries in Asia Pacific1, has become a significant national agenda. Many lowand middle-income Asian economies needed to spend more on health issues like obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) even prior to the crisis. It is critical to ensure that economic pressures — either during or after the pandemic has ended — do not divert already limited resources away from essential health services. As these countries have limited capacity and depend heavily on household out-ofpocket spending, the significant cost of responding to and containing the pandemic may not be fully within their financial capacity. With more and more countries and governments2 in the region expressing their concern over the public health issues and their preparedness to manage them; it is clear that a more holistic and widespread approach is needed.
There is enough evidence available now suggesting that there are multiple factors, beyond medication or nutrition awareness, that impact healthy lifestyle and overall wellbeing of the society – both macro and micro environmental level3.
There is also merit in exploring and evaluating the factors that can help in creating aware and healthier societies.
The ANGELO Framework defines four categories of environment to consider while evaluating an impact – physical (what is available); political (what are the rules); economic (what are the costs); and sociocultural (what are the attitudes and beliefs). When it comes to behaviour moulding at a community level, all these categories together play a significant role. There lies an opportunity to leverage nudges, incentives, and power of community to achieve the desired health and wellbeing status – an aspect which nutrition companies, and healthcare professionals (HCPs) can help facilitate and drive. While further research is needed in these areas to derive ideal outcomes and impact, a few of these tactics have proven to be beneficial
Nudges and influence
Nutrition labeling4 is a proven potential method to encourage consumers to improve dietary behaviour. Many industries have been adopting images and labels on packaging of food items as an indicator of its calorific value as well as its impact on health. Different formats of such labelling have been experimented in the past such as coloured coding, warning imagery, keywords indicating healthy choice, fibre rich and symbols. However, a study conducted by Duke-NUS Medical School and NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health5 revealed that it is important to keep the messaging simple on food products. Multiple symbols and too much information on the pack can confuse shoppers and dilute the effect of all information shared.
For example, the Government of Thailand made substantial efforts towards making this labelling simplistic, in association with Thai National Strategic Steering Committee, National Food Committee and the Public Health Ministry.
Endorsements and certifications by credible authorities have a great deal of influence in helping consumers make healthier food and lifestyle choices. Government endorsements spanning sustainable agriculture, sourcing, food quality standards and supply chain best practices have been instrumental in building the accurate and authentic perception for brands across. In another instance, Taiwan’s Symbol of National Quality (SNQ6) is a wellknown certification for wellness and health supplements. The SNQ is given by the Institute for Biotechnology and Medicine Industry, and its purpose is to let consumers know which products meet top safety and quality standards. While in Vietnam, the Golden Product for Public Health Award7 by the Vietnam Association of Functional Food is endorsed by the Ministry of Sciences and Technology to achieve the similar objectives
Friendships and communities
As humans we are wired for social connection and these very social connections play an important role in people being able to live healthier lives - science provides evidence that social connections have a positive impact8 on people’s lives. According to researchers from the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies9, people with meaningful social relationships tend to have better health behaviours, like eating healthy foods10 and being physically active. Group activities11 and exercises for instance, are known to enhance social bonding; and social bonding in turn leads to a proven enhanced exercise performance.
Another research study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine12 found that people who regularly walk in groups have lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, and total cholesterol. The recent Herbalife Nutrition Virtual Run successfully motivated more than 25,000 consumers to form a common-purpose community that clocked a total of 1.57 million kilometres, enough to circle the earth almost 40 times!
Actions are hugely impacted by beliefs, circle of friends, and family that influence choices. Most people spend a considerable portion of their time at work and form social circles at work as well. Thus, workplace environments thrive when there is a focus on education and empowerment towards better health.
Civil society, government and public policy have a significant role to play on how incentives are applied to create a healthier environment. The potential solutions call for a more holistic approach that effectively integrates the various groups mentioned. The impact of unhealthy populations is not limited to just the consumers, they run much deeper with social, political, and economic implications.
The HCPs impact
Perhaps those with the greatest power to impact consumer lifestyle behaviour are the likes of coaches, experts, and HCPs. HCPs command a fair share of respect and credibility among the public as far as the nutritional information and awareness is concerned. As influential members of their respective communities, HCPs have a deeper understanding of the beliefs, practices, attitudes, awareness as well as behaviour of their audiences. This knowledge can help them spread information among their stakeholders and to nudge more people towards a healthier lifestyle.
Herbalife Nutrition is on the right side of these efforts. Our commitment to improving lives and our communities has remained at the core of everything we do. Given the scale and scope of our global network, we have the capacity to make a lasting difference for people seeking a healthier lifestyle. One of our key initiatives last year was the Herbalife Nutrition Dialogue Series13, a compilation of nutrition-related educational videos aimed at closing the nutrition knowledge gaps among Asia Pacific consumers and equipping them with credible nutrition information. The series featured leading experts discussing topics like diabesity, heart health, healthy ageing and the need for multi-sector collaboration to drive public nutrition education.
Leading a better lifestyle is a matter of choice, commitment, and support, and at Herbalife Nutrition, we are fulfilling our mission by providing not one but multiple nudges, influences and communities such as fitness camps, mentorship programs and educational efforts to help people make smart decisions, stay active and achieve their personal goals.