Supporting Healthy Eating: Synergistic Effects of Nutrition Education Paired with Policy, Systems, and Environmental Changes.
A healthy diet is central to health and well-being throughout life. The United States and many other countries are undergoing an obesity epidemic and experiencing serious diet-related health problems. There exists a misalignment and wide gap between national dietary recommendations and dietary patterns of Americans, and thus, a need to find new ways to improve diet and nutrition. This article posits that nutrition education combined with policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change approaches is more effective than either strategy in isolation and both are needed to reduce the global burden of diet-related chronic diseases. This article presents a conceptual framework for understanding the multiple influences on what people eat; discusses the need for PSE strategies to augment direct nutrition education approaches; and highlights examples of synergistic and promising linkages between nutrition education and PSE strategies in 3 areas: federal nutrition assistance programs, food retail settings, and nutrition and calorie labeling. In addition, future directions where this synergistic approach holds promise for improving population health and reducing health inequities are discussed. Nutrition education combined with PSE changes at governmental and community levels, as well as strategic public-private alliances have the potential to change the way people eat and improve health and well-being.
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