Perception of nutritional risks (malnutrition, overweight). A case study in Vietnam : Implications for risk management

Calandre Natacha. 2005. Perception of nutritional risks (malnutrition, overweight). A case study in Vietnam : Implications for risk management. In : 97th EAAE Seminar on "The economics and policy of diet and health", 21-22 April 2005, Reading. EAAE. s.l. : s.n., 24 p. EAAE Seminar. 97, Reading, Royaume-Uni, 21 April 2005/22 April 2005.

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Abstract : Food-related risks became priorities of public health, at the time of food abundance where malnutrition by deficiencies became unacceptable and obesity and associated diseases strongly increased all over the world. The public actions to fight against nutritional problems rely on information diffusion and education of the public. These interventions remain dominated by psycho-sociological general models (as the theory of reasoned action of Fischbein and Ajzen) or models applied to health behaviors as the Knowledge, Attitude, Beliefs, Practices (KABP) model promoted by the WHO (1989). Based on the theory of subjective expected utility, these models make the hypothesis that an improvement of individuals' knowledge will modify their attitudes towards risks what will change their risk management behaviors. However, investigations in health-nutrition confirmed that an improvement of knowledge level on prevention and control tools was not a sufficient condition to improve individual behaviors. In spite of their knowledge, some individuals do not conform to the recommendations and continue to behave in a way which expose them or their relatives to risks. In this article, we favour two paths of explanation of the shift between recommendations and food behaviours (1) the understanding of the differences in risk perception between the "experts" (in charge of evaluating and communicating on the risks) and the "laymen" (2) the analysis of cognitive biases between risk perception and individual behaviour. The preventive actions stigmatize people's inaccurate behaviors as "irrational" and thus aim to reduce this distortion by leading the citizen to perceive the "real" objective risk defined by experts. This article proposes an alternative approach relying on the idea that "false beliefs" form part of the collective representations and that individuals develop responses integrating the risk. People's risk perception is more qualitative and complex than experts' one and individual behavior depends on a set of psychological and social factors. Instead of reducing behavioral process as a linear and mechanist relation, we consider it as a dynamic system in which all the elements (knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors) are in constant interaction, characterizing various risk management strategies and rationalities. This research is based on works in economic and social psychology to study mothers' perception of two nutritional risks: risk of malnutrition by deficiencies and risk of overweight/obesity in Hanoi (Vietnam). The psychometric paradigm represents in particular a useful tool to analyze people's subjective risk perception, considering it as multidimensional. Our study aims at putting forward the psychological mechanisms (cognitive biases, barriers) influencing risk perception. On the whole, 240 mothers of children from 6 to 10 years old were questioned on the basis of a quantitative and qualitative questionnaire. Mothers' knowledge, risk perception, food practices and nutritional status of mothers and children were characterized. First results are proposed. This article shows the contribution of risk sociology (psychometric paradigm) and social psychology (cognitive biases) to widen the conception of individual rationality. This research underlines others subjacent logics explaining individual exposure to risks. The disposals set up by the individuals to face risks are compromises between objectives, know-how and concurrent risks (between health and pleasure, health and self-image, etc). This work aims at lighting the policies of nutritional risk management on the individual and collective representations as profane knowledge guiding behaviors. The integration of the risk into individuals' responses must bring to regard the individual as a social subject and not simply as a target of the interventions. (Résumé d'auteur)

Classification Agris : E73 - Consumer economics
S30 - Diet and diet-related diseases

Auteurs et affiliations

  • Calandre Natacha, CIRAD-TERA-UPR Normes et marchés (FRA)

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