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Strategies and key messages

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Effective and strategic communication uses a variety of means. Research shows that messages are more effective, better understood and more motivating when:

  • They are consistent across different channels and platforms
  • They are communicated via a variety of channels/platforms, rather than only one or two

Eating disorder communication strategies require a multi-strand approach that includes, but is not limited to:

  • Media literacy – Teaching intended audiences (usually young people) to deconstruct media messages in order to identify the advertiser’s motives
  • Media advocacy – Changing the social environment in which individual health decisions are made by influencing the mass media’s selection of topics and by shaping the database about those topics
  • Social marketing – Placing health promotion messages in the media or in public spaces to increase awareness of eating disorders
  • Educational / entertainment programs – Embedding eating disorder messages into entertainment and news programs
  • Collaboration – Increasing support and channels for positive communication through partnerships within the eating disorders sector and other sectors

Developing key messages

When designing key messages for effective interventions, the following guidelines should be taken into consideration.

Key messages and communications about eating disorders should:

  • Be developmentally appropriate for the intended audience and their age
  • Promote understanding of eating disorders as serious, complex illnesses, not a lifestyle choice
  • Provide accurate, evidence-based information
  • Respect the experience of people who have eating disorders
  • Assist people in making appropriate decisions about seeking help
  • Balance representation of males and females, diverse cultures and age groups (unless specifically addressing a single target audience)
  • Be reviewed for ambiguity and possible risk of harm
  • Be monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure the continuing safety and appropriateness of content

Key messages and communications about eating disorders should not:

  • Describe details of how to engage in eating disorder behaviours
  • Use or provide information on personal measurements in relation to people who have experienced an eating disorder (e.g. weight, amount of exercise, number of hospital admissions)
  • Normalise or glamorise eating disorder behaviours
  • Stigmatise eating disorder behaviours
  • Use judgmental, critical or value-laden language
  • Use fear, stigma or other ‘scare tactics’ to motivate or coerce people to act

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