Promoting healthy behaviours without scare tactics


One of the reasons I joined Bupa was to tackle the growing issue of obesity, a critical health issue with 2 in 3 Australians aged 18 and above currently living with an unhealthy weight[1].

By Greg McGrath, Preventative Health Program Lead at Bupa.

While obesity is having a significant negative impact on people’s quality of life, the Australian health system and the nation’s overall average life expectancy; it is not always easy to promote and embed healthier life choices in the community.

A major reason for this is behaviour changes are not always popular, they take time and can be met with some resistance. We only need to look at the recent experience of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to see how complex a new health directive can be.

I believe a notable reason why some behavioural change campaigns linked to health haven’t worked throughout history is because health promotion has mostly involved telling people the risks of a specific behaviour and then telling them the consequences if they continue. It’s the stick rather than carrot approach. Just think about the anti-smoking messages and images on cigarette packages or the Grim Reaper HIV campaigns from the 1980s.

These campaigns certainly get their point across, but many people can be ‘turned off’ or repulsed by the message and the imagery. This is why I am always eager to develop and discover new models of education and behaviour change that don’t require scare tactics.

A recent example of this is my involvement in Bupa’s eco-Disruptive initiative, a program that sees teams work with start-ups or social enterprises to identify and shape innovative solutions to environmental challenges aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

My team has been tasked with finding a solution that will help create a healthier planet for future generations and reduce the incidence of chronic health conditions here and now. A solution that is good for the planet, good for people, and good for Bupa.

With this in mind we are thrilled to be working with Australian Urban Growers, an urban farming solution aimed at creating connections between people, their food and their community.

Through urban, vertical and rooftop farming, Australian Urban Growers aims to reduce the consumption of resources including energy, water and land. This brings the food bowl closer to home and supports delivering good nutrition and economic value through local food supply chains.

This startup will also provide access to online learning to help people to upskill and grow their own fresh produce in a small space in a low maintenance way. From a Bupa perspective, we are excited about how these gardens can potentially support social connections and interactions amongst our aged care residents, our people and the community.

There is still lots of work to do and the challenge remains big, but I am thrilled to have this opportunity to promote healthier living in an innovative, organic and most importantly, positive way. Watch this space!

For more information on Bupa’s eco-Disruptive program visit here.

For more information on Australian Urban Growers visit here.

[1] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/overweight-and-obesity