Critical review essay of the Five-a-day Health Initiative

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Critical review essay of the “Five-a-day”

Health Initiative


 Nicola Montague-Patel

I.D. 2935863

The Five-a-Day campaign has spread throughout the world and is undoubtedly a resounding success, is this reality or merely public perception?  

The five-a-day campaign started in the early 1990’s making it one of the first public health campaigns, it is certainly the longest running and as a consequence many people are aware of its existence, even if they are oblivious to its meaning.

The essay will look back at the long history of this health scheme, to a time before its introduction in to the United Kingdom (UK) and ascertain the reason for its initiation; following through with a review of its successes and known failures. An investigation will explain why it was necessary to recently clarify what could be included in your five-a-day recommendations, and whether there were any specific guidelines for children. It will look at other developed countries of “five-a-day” recommendations and how they differ from the UK.

The five-a-day health promotion was initially implemented in the United States of America (USA) in 1991 by the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation (Obesity Epidemiology, 2010). The promotion advised that to limit the occurrence of cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular disease we should eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. This was deemed necessary as cancer accounts for around 20% of deaths in the developed world and is the second most common cause of death. It is thought that much of this is triggered by environmental influences rather than genetic effects. Studies have proved that migrants moving from low to high risk countries adopt their host countries cancer patterns within a short space of time.

Epidemiology estimates demonstrate that a healthier choice of food in our diet could prevent 32-35% of some cancers in the developed world (Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 2000). Our present history of western diseases has made health initiative schemes essential to educate or remind the population on what constitutes good food choices. The power of epidemiological study is vital in our understanding of public health. The Framingham Heart Study carried out in the United States of America is an excellent example of the incredible worth of systematic gathering and analysis of data from medical professionals.

The long-term epidemiological study involved a cohort of 5000 men and women from 1948 until the present day. The analysis of the study group has given the world invaluable information to the many risk factors of cardiovascular disease. Very little was known of the common features of coronary heart disease before the findings of these studies. Coronary heart disease is the number one cause of death in the UK and the Framingham heart study is repeatedly referred to in peer viewed articles, this only emphasizes its vital worth.

The five-a-day initiative was launched during a time in history just prior to the information explosion with the development of many new media sources which have been continually increasing in both number and sophistication. From early media such as newsprint and television to the present day when via the internet and numerous readily accessible “gadgets” the general public have easy access to vast amounts of health and nutritional information such as British dietary survey reports, carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in 2008. These surveys are undertaken at regular intervals from a cross section of the UK population, with a view to giving us a general analysis of our nutritional status and attempting to target those more in need of essential nutrients for better health.

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The name of the report is, “The Nutritional Wellbeing of the British Population, an analysis of British dietary surveys.” The nature of these types of reports has given rise to opportunities for a huge amount of journalistic criticism, especially of the five-a-day plan since it was endorsed by the Department of Health in 2002. And rightly so, as the 2008 SACN report tells us that there has been a decline in fruit and vegetable consumption since 2002 by elderly people in institutions, young adults, people on benefits and young children. These groups of society are in obvious need of a ...

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