Risky food and water? Health and environmental knowledge and information-seeking in Australia

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Despite the centrality of health to collective well-being, many people fail to heed, or critically question, human or environmental health advice. Our research explores individual knowledge of key issues targeted by government health campaigns and policy guidelines for risks faced daily through food and water consumption and documents information sources participants used for air, water, environment, and health risk/quality advice. Findings challenge stereotypical assumptions that higher-educated individuals have high health and environmental literacy. Despite many holding general and advanced degrees, variation and illiteracy emerged regarding awareness of daily recommended dietary guidelines, with limited awareness of daily recommendations for fruit and vegetables and varied knowledge about fried food, dairy, and red meat consumption. While many knew treating tank or river water is required before consumption, several were unaware of the associated risks. The Internet and television constituted participants’ key information sources for all issues examined. Given the high cost, negative effects, and risks (including death) from poor diet and exposure to microbiologically-contaminated water, we argue new ways of communicating health and environmental risk factors are required that a) bypass political, economic, and corporatist interests; b) engender critical knowledge consumption; and c) incorporate demographically-relevant strategies and campaigns reflecting individualistic and group practices/preferences.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe annual conference of the Australian sociological association
Subtitle of host publicationrefereed proceedings of TASA 2016 conference, cities & successful societies
EditorsMark Chou
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherThe Sociological Association of Australia (TASA)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9780646964805
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventTASA 2016 - The Australian Catholic University (Fitzroy Campus), Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 28 Nov 201601 Dec 2016
https://web.archive.org/web/20161125111719/https://conference.tasa.org.au/ (Conference website)
https://web.archive.org/web/20170310150536/http://conference.tasa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/TASA-Concurrent-Sessions-FINAL-V4-15112016-159pm-20161116.pdf (Conference program)
https://web.archive.org/web/20170310150411/http://conference.tasa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/TASA_2016_Conference_Proceedings-3-241116.pdf (Conference proceedings)


ConferenceTASA 2016
Abbreviated titleCities and Successful Societies
OtherThis year’s conference will explore the theme ‘Cities and Successful Societies’. Despite its reputation as a cultural hub and tourist destination, Melbourne is also home to many social problems found in ‘less successful’ societies. From record housing unaffordability, growing inequality to a domestic violence epidemic, Melbourne provides a unique lens through which to study the byproducts faced by so-called successful societies. If Australia is the ‘lucky country’ and Melbourne the world’s most livable city, then just what do we mean when we label a city or society successful? This is the questions at the heart of the intellectual programme of this year’s TASA conference.
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