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Enhancement of Educational and Extension Communication for the Prevention of Milkborne Diseases

Investigators
LeJeune, Jeffrey
Institutions
Ohio State University
Start date
2009
End date
2012
Objective
The long-term goal of our research group is to enhance human health through prevention of zoonotic infections. Given that there is an increased public debate on the subject that is coupled with an increased demand for "natural" milk products, our objective in this application is to provide unbiased information sources in locations that influence public's decision-making process in the selection of dairy products. Consumers make decisions about food selections based on what they perceive to be rational and justifiable criteria.

The central hypothesis for the proposed research is that increased access to science-based literature on the subject will allow consumers to make more informed decisions. We have formulated this hypothesis based on a thorough review of the available scientific literature and preliminary findings from our laboratory which suggests that the balance of literature available to consumers is biased and many individuals to whom consumers might turn to for information are not adequately informed about the subject (see Preliminary Studies for details). Once these risk factors are identified and quantified, science-based intervention and educational strategies can be developed, implemented, and evaluated for the prevention of zoonotic infections.

More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The Internet is a valuable source of information for consumers, albeit the quality and reliability information available on-line is highly variable. This is of particular concern when it involves health and food safety information and recommendations where false or misleading information can lead to serious negative consequences. Using the growing trend of unpasteurized dairy product consumption as a model food safety communication challenge, we will explore, using a mental models approach, factors influencing consumers' decisions to consume raw milk, and how consumers acquire and evaluate information about the subject. Specifically, we will determine how consumers rank, evaluate, and develop trust in on-line food safety resources. Our objective is to develop a milk safety website (and guidelines for building food safety websites) that instills trust and promotes adoption of healthy food safety behaviours. These guidelines can be used for the development and dissemination of other electronic food safety messages. Additional educational activities will involve the development of discipline-targeted teaching PowerPoint modules that can be used in the education of students who may have influencial roles in communicating with the public upon graduation (i.e. students in medicine, veterinary medicine, food science, animal science, dietetics, public health, etc). These modules will be freely available to educators. A culminating international conference on raw milk safety and risk communication about the subject will be held during the final year of this project.

APPROACH: 1. Focus on Research: Determine factors that influence the consumers' personal decision to drink raw or pasteurized milk; develop and test educational communication messages based on these research findings. 2. Focus on Education: Develop audience-specific teaching modules for undergraduate students (Animal Sciences, Food Science, and Nutrition) and Professional Students (Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, and Dietetics) on the subject of milk safety, based on the research results. 3. Focus on Outreach and Extension: a. Develop and deliver audience-specific teaching modules and informational brochures for practicing professionals (MDs, veterinarians, animal scientists, nutritionists, food safety and public health educators, RNs, food scientists, and dairy farmers). b. Establish the characteristics of Food Safety websites that promote trust in the message content. Develop, publish, and maintain a highly visible and frequently consulted website on milk safety. Including contributions to eXtensions "Community of Practice" for Food Safety. c. Contribute to lay press articles on milk safety. d. Conduct in international conference the current state of knowledge of milk safety. This integrated project is both innovative and timely. It fills several critical needs in education and Extension that are not readily available through other programs. Although, milkborne illnesses are not the largest single cause of foodborne illness in the US, this project targets a growing health concern and has especially important ramifications for particularly vulnerable high-risk consumer populations (i.e.; children, pregnant, elderly, and other wise immunocompromised). At the conclusion of this study we will have education and extension curricula that can be used to promote the adoption of increased food safety practices. We will be able to document the magnitude of impact of these materials. Importantly, our evaluation plan will allow us to identify weakness in our program and make improvements for greater success. Moreover, we will have at our disposal critical information and the framework required for developing and disseminating effective educational interventions to reduce the impact of other zoonotic infections.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
OHO01051-SS
Accession number
219538
Categories
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Bacterial Pathogens
Education and Training
Parasites
Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Chemical Contaminants