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As we race towards the 21st century, the challenges to our nutrition communication efforts seem to grow, as does the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives on nutrition issues. These diverse perspectives are represented by the growing number of sectors and disciplines that play a role in public policy development and in nutrition program planning and delivery. Consumers, dietetics professionals, other health educators, researchers, government agencies, industry, and the media all play a role, but all represent somewhat different perspectives on nutrition issues. Understanding the needs, values, strengths, and limitations of each of these groups as stakeholders will undoubtedly help us respect and balance their diverse perspectives. Such balance is essential to allow us to work toward harmonizing nutrition programs to benefit the public.
Unfortunately, our efforts continue to be countered by the people who promote nutrition misinformation. These people range from nutrition terrorists with their alarmist attacks on a principle, message, food, ingredient, or technology all the way to purveyors of food quackery, that is, those who promote for profit "special foods, products, processes, or appliances with false or misleading health or therapeutic claims" (1, p 696). All of these forces or competing interests have the potential to influence the public and must be reckoned with, either as collaborators or competitors.
THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL NUTRITION COMMUNICATION
Key to our success in nutrition communication is a clear understanding of the desirable outcome or impact on the target audience. Our basic nutrition goal is to protect and promote nutritional well-being for all. The objective of our nutrition education efforts can be viewed as the "voluntary adoption of eating and other nutrition-related behavior conducive to health and well-being" (2, p 279). Nutrition communication can then be viewed as any communication designed to facilitate the objective of nutrition education. In other words, nutrition communication supports and reinforces nutrition education. Because nutrition communications come from a wide variety of sources, it is essential that we as nutrition and dietetics professionals "direct traffic" for consumers, and in so doing that we respect and balance the diverse perspectives of those contributing to nutrition communications. The ultimate goal or outcome criterion of all of these efforts must be sustained behavioral change, with an intermediate goal of accelerating the shift toward more healthful diets.
Nutrition-related behavior can be examined in terms of total or single nutrient intake, food intake, food selection or preparation, physical activity, and weight or blood pressure monitoring, among other approaches. Nevertheless, many mediating or enabling factors may influence one's ability to achieve and sustain behavioral change goals. These include:
* cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills or food and nutrition knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and current practices;
* personal factors such as behavioral intent, behavioral expectancies, health values, sense of personal empowerment, and …