Year

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Health and Society

Abstract

Introduction: The need to improve consumers’ knowledge of nutrition has been raised in literature. However, few studies have encompassed the broad range of important nutrition and food systems (N&FS) issues that affect population health, environmental sustainability and animal welfare. Also not well explored is the most efficient and effective N&FS education strategies.

Objectives: This research project aimed to explore the perspectives of prominent Australian and Iranian food professionals regarding: 1) essential N&FS knowledge issues for secondary school students, 2) gaps in Australian and Iranian school-leavers’ knowledge of N&FS and 3) effective strategies to improve school-leavers’ knowledge of N&FS.

Methods: Semi-structured face-to-face or telephone-based interviews were conducted with 21 food professionals in five states or territories of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory). Similar interviews were conducted with 28 professionals in Iran from four major provinces (Fars, Tehran, Isfahan and Gilan). Australia, as a developed country, and Iran, a developing country, were selected for comparison.

Participants in Australia were: three public health nutritionists, four dietitians, four nutritionists, one public health expert, two food scientists, four home economists, two veterinary physicians (experts in animal welfare and animalsourced food production systems) and one environmental scientist. Participants in Iran included: five public health nutritionists, five dietitians, five nutritionists, four food scientists, four school teachers, two veterinary physicians, two environmental scientists and one agriculture scientist. Interviews conducted in Australia were transcribed verbatim for analysis. Interviews conducted in Iran were transcribed verbatim (in Farsi) and translated from Farsi to English. The transcribed data were entered into NVivo version 10 and were analysed thematically.

Results: Gaps in Australian and Iranian school-leavers’ knowledge of N&FS were identified, and factors that affected their knowledge were determined. Australian professionals raised the need to integrate N&FS lessons into current core subjects in schools, increase food-related skill development activities in schools, increase cross-disciplinary actions regarding designing and implementing N&FS education programs for schools, and increase positive activities of mass media in broadcasting more food-related educational materials. Similar education interventions were raised by Iranian professionals. In addition, Australian professionals highlighted the important role of parents in the home setting as proper role models and informed food educators, and Iranian professionals highlighted the important role of national government to increase its financial support for school-based N&FS education programs.

Findings related to Australia and Iran were compared to identify the similarities and differences in food professionals’ views. Professionals in both countries reported a wide range of similar views, such as the need to make specific improvements in current N&FS components of secondary school curriculum, to integrate N&FS lessons into current core subjects, to increase the development of food-related skills in schools, to increase cross-disciplinary actions regarding designing and implementing N&FS education programs for schools, and to increase the number of food-related educational programs broadcast in the mass media. There were some differences in the recommendations by Australian and Iranian food-related professionals; these mainly reflected the cultural, economic and political circumstances of these countries. Comparison of the findings from Australia and Iran resulted in the development of a potential universal guide for N&FS education for adolescents.

Discussion and conclusion: This study developed five guides for N&FS education programs. Two guides include essential N&FS knowledge issues for Australian and Iranian school-leavers. Two guides (one each for Australia and Iran) outline the best strategies to improve school-leavers’ knowledge of N&FS. Also, one potentially universal guide was developed, which uses the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion to formulate appropriate N&FS education for adolescents. Findings related to Australian and Iranian studies provide important guidance for the development of N&FS curricula in secondary schools, and enrich and support the provision of N&FS education initiatives for Australian and Iranian adolescents. The guides will also support international educators, curriculum developers and policymakers in improving N&FS education programs for adolescents.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.