Healthy Communications

Healthy Communications: How to Positively Discuss Health Behavior Changes and Workplace Wellness

Last week we published a terrific podcast with Dr. Brian Wansink. Wansink is Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author, most recently, of “Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.”

The conversation covered important and effective ways to change the design of one’s workplace — from break rooms to cafeterias to the desktop — as well as workplace behavior to help employees eat healthy (note: Wansink’s research extends far beyond the workplace and is worth considering for the home, food shopping, and more).

But even once changes have been made in the workplace, what about the communication? What are the best ways to talk to employees (indeed, to people generally) about how to accept and implement health behavioral change?

The first inclination might be to cite an expert. Another might be to utilize fear, highlighting all the bad things that can come from, say, a poor diet.

But for the general public (as opposed to medical professionals), that might not be the most effective, according to research published by the Food and Brand Lab.

It’s better to go positive.

The post states: “Positive gain-framed messages are more effective for the general public who have less knowledge about the subject, feel that healthy behaviors are a choice rather than a duty, and have less firsthand knowledge of the consequences of their actions. Instead, they are more likely to look at the big picture and respond to messages that are framed more positively and focus on what is gained by a certain behavior such as, ‘wearing sunscreen can help your skin stay healthy and youthful.’”

“When writing a health message, rather than appealing to the sentiment of the experts, the message will be more effective if it’s presented positively. The general public is more likely to adopt the behavior being promoted if they see that there is a potential positive outcome.”

The post concludes: “Lead author Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design concludes, ‘Evoking fear may seem like a good way to get your message across but this study shows that, in fact, the opposite is true—telling the public that a behavior will help them be healthier and happier is actually more effective.’”