Purpose: There has been no mandatory regulatory nutrition reforms in Australia during the past decade despite evidence demonstrating their effectiveness. One reason cited for this lack of action is concern that such measures will not be acceptable to the general public. However we know that public acceptability of messages can be influenced by how a message is framed . This research sought to explore public opinion on different regulatory options and examine how message frames can affect level of support.
Methods: We undertook 2 studies: street intercept interviews and an online experimental survey. The street intercept interviews in a metropolitan location and 4 regional towns (n = 76) incorporated qualitative and quantitative questions to explore the attitudes of Australians towards different nutrition policies. These results informed the development of 4 values-based messages which were tested in a randomised online experimental survey. A nationally representative sample (n=1500) was recruited for the online survey. Each participant was assigned to one of four message conditions. Descriptive and logistic regression analysis were used to examine associations between message condition, demographic variables and support for regulation. Framing analysis was used for the qualitative data.
Results: Most participants supported the full range of policy options presented with lowest levels of support for reformulating food products and a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Analysis of the online experimental survey is currently underway. Early results indicate that political ideology is not a guaranteed variable to predict support for nutrition policy. However, the message frame of ‘protecting teenagers’ is showing moderate levels of support.
Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest there is broad public support for the Australian government to use regulatory policy to address nutrition-related diseases. The results from this empirical analysis provide valuable insights that can be used when advocating for effective public health nutrition actions.