Nutrition education for a healthier society

Executive Summary

Unhealthy eating is one of the main causes of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart diseases, and certain cancers. NCDs rank among the 10 most frequent causes of death in South Africa in 2017. Good nutrition knowledge accompanied by healthy eating contributes to reducing an individual’s risk for NCDs. This project will implement a nutrition education campaign among the low socioeconomic communities in Gauteng. We will conduct NCDs risk assessment through the non-invasive body composition measurement, individual nutrition counselling, and group nutrition education. Nutrition counselling and education will be based on the South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (SAFBDGs). It is envisaged that up to a quarter of the target population will be reached per year. As a result, the healthy eating messages will be propagated; the people can be empowered with appropriate knowledge and practices for reducing their risk for NCDs.


Food-related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, and obesity are of public health concern globally and South Africa is not spared. A World Health Organisation (WHO)’s survey of more than 35,000 people aged 50 and over in low and middle economies reported that 78 percent of those who participated in South Africa had hypertension 1.  

Nutrition education is one of the most enduring, effective, and economic interventions to fight malnutrition and food-related diseases through appropriate nutrition knowledge and skills2,3. The WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013–2020 identifies the importance of nutrition education in its recommendation for nation states to ‘Create health- and nutrition-promoting environments4. Providing the appropriate levels of nutrition education will enable individuals to make healthy food choices5.

Nutrition education campaign needs to be particularly targeted at disadvantaged groups, such as those of low socioeconomic background. Low socioeconomic status is often associated with higher levels of NCDs. Research evidence has shown how nutrition education campaigns helped to improve nutrition knowledge and facilitate behaviour change, especially among low-SES participants5. This project will contribute to realising the sustainable development goal 3; ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages by reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention.

Aim: To conduct a nutrition education campaign among people with low socioeconomic backgrounds in Gauteng province to increase awareness about healthy eating.

Target audience: People of low economic background including adult men and women, young people, and children. We aim to reach up to a quarter of the target population in one year.

Objectives of our nutrition education intervention

  1. To develop a healthy eating mobile app for the propagation of the healthy eating messages of the South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (SAFBDGs)

What we plan to do

To realise our objectives, we will implement the following activities:

Short term plan:

  1. Situation analysis of nutrition education in the communities and at the healthcare facilities.
  2. Engagement with relevant government departments and community leaders and authorities at the DoH to foster support.  
  3. Conduct workshops with community leaders and community health workers to strengthen the capacity for nutrition education in the communities.
  4. Conduct scheduled onsite community nutrition assessment and counselling for community members including adult men and women as well as children.

Long term plan:

  1. We will work with music experts to develop the messages of the SAFBDGs into songs in all the eleven official languages in South Africa.
  2. We will engage the various communication platforms such as television, radio, print media, and social media to propagate the songs until the healthy eating messages become a household song in South Africa.

Benefits of the nutrition education intervention

  1. Improved nutrition knowledge: The people will be educated about the diversity and the use of foods that are available within their locality.
  2. Dissemination of the messages of the SAFBDGs: The project will enhance the propagation of healthy eating messages and the empowerment for behaviour change.
  3. Improved health. The overall health of the people will improve as people embrace and practice healthy eating and lifestyle. Their risk for NCD could be reduced as they are empowered to identify and correctly use available foods in their locality.
  4. Capacity development and job creation: The project will provide an opportunity for capacity development in nutrition education for emerging nutritionists who will provide the services to the people.
  5. Sustainability: Knowledge acquired by the participants will be useful in benefiting their lives and those of their families. Also, there will be continued dissemination of the messages of the SAFBDGs to the public once the music is developed, validated, and launched.

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  1. Lloyd-Sherlock P, Beard J, Minicuci N, Ebrahim S and Chatterji S. Hypertension among older adults in low and middle-income countries: prevalence, awareness, and control. Int J Epidemiol 2014; 43(1):116-28
  2. Rustad C & Smith C (2012) A short-term intervention improves nutrition attitudes in low-income women through nutrition education relating to financial savvy. J Hunger Environ Nutr 7, 205–223.
  3. Dollahite J, Kenkel D & Thompson CS (2008) An economic evaluation of the expanded food and nutrition education program. J Nutr Educ Behav 40, 134–143.
  4. World Health Organization (2013) Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013–2020. Geneva: WHO.
  5. Pettigrew, S., Moore, S., Pratt, I., & Jongenelis, M. (2016). Evaluation outcomes of a long-running adult nutrition education programme. Public Health Nutr, 19(4), 743-752.