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Communicating About Sustainable Diets

Challenge or Opportunity?

Rowe, Sylvia B., MA; Alexander, Nick, BA

doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000306
Nutrition Communications

Throughout the food and health science communications community, there has been increasing discussion about what might constitute a sustainable dietary regime to benefit both the human population and the planet. Such a “food-systems” approach poses significant challenges to communicators of food and health science—an approach involving multidisciplinary discussions of not only public health but also agricultural, environmental, ethical, economic, technological, and other issues. Various food systems have been proposed to promote healthful food choices by the public, as well as sustainable resource utilization with minimal environmental impact. Nutrition science and other health communicators are increasingly called upon to deliver understandable messages about these complex multidimensional issues. Major communication challenges include how to address such questions as “how does environmental sensitivity coexist with healthy food choices and how better to understand public values around food and sustainability?” And, most important, “does broadening the discussion to encompass sustainable diets offer new opportunities to promote long-resisted dietary change?” The present article analyzes the issues around talking about sustainable diets and offers strategies for addressing them.

Sylvia Rowe, MA, is currently the president of SR Strategy pursuing communications and issues management consulting on a broad range of health, nutrition, food safety, and risk issues. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Boston.

Nick Alexander, BA, is a former senior media counselor for the IFIC Foundation, Washington, DC. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and is a former network correspondent with ABC News. For more than the past decade, Mr Alexander has tracked and written about science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Sylvia Rowe, MA, SR Strategy, 1100 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 600, Washington, DC 20036 (

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