The power of visual communication or how to make people stop eating fast food

hamburgers-576307__340This week my blog got special attention. On Monday, I received an email from the marketing team of a company called Healthline. It contained a link to their latest article with a visual graphic illustrating the effects of fast food on the human body. Healthline was wondering if I would be interested to share the article on my blog which I decided to do for a number of reasons. Firstly, the fast food issue is near and dear to my heart (in a purely metaphorical sense, of course) since my research experience began with a study of the semiotics of McDonald’s TV commercials and public perception of the fast food industry and its extensive efforts to create a healthier image. Since the fast food trend does not appear to be dying out just yet, I wholeheartedly support every effort to educate consumers about the adverse health effects of such diets. Secondly, being unfamiliar with Healthline, I was curious to learn more about the company and, having done a bit of research, found its declared mission laudable and strategies for achieving it compelling.

A visit to the official website revealed that Healthline is a private company whose proclaimed goal is to “educate and empower our users with relevant and responsible information in order to foster better communication between doctors and patients” (Healthline, 2014).  To this end,  a team of medical experts and writers work together  to harness the power of education and information in order to contribute to a healthier population. While not claiming to offer an adequate substitute for professional healthcare, Healthline aims to enable people to taker better care of their health by providing them with accurate and reliable knowledge and facts, including the latest health news, updates on the most recent trends in the pharmaceutical industry, reports of medical findings from peer-reviewed scientific journals and more. Healthline covers a wide range of topics and has some really cool tools such as Symptom Checker or Bodymaps (ever wanted to have a look inside a human body?). Yet, I was rather disappointed to see the website replete with food advertisements for products that contribute to many of the health problems that Healthline presumably wants to combat. Whatever the case, the graphic visualising the effects of fast food consumption on human organs and their functions is certainly not a part of the industry’s marketing campaign. The article is very revealing about the numerous adverse health effects of fast food, and the visual is a good way to present this information to the readers in an accessible, attention-catching and memorable manner. In fact, this is the third reason why I found the article appealing – I am a big fan of data visualisation and infographics since I was involved in the Reading the Riots on Twitter project – a part of a comprehensive Guardian-LSE study of the UK riots of 2011. The entire study was data-driven and made an effective use of interactive visualisations to tell the story of the London unrest in an unconventional way.

After a long preamble it is time to finally share the link – you might want to check it out before you’re off to get your next portion of fries.

P.S. Later in the week I got an email from the PR team of the Common Ground Publishing – the organizers of the International Food Studies Conference, which I attended in October. Turns out they quite liked my article on the Slow Food Movement and wanted to share it on their Facebook page. It’s really been a successful week!

References

Healthline, (2014). Healthline.com. [online] Available at: http://www.healthline.com/health/about-healthline#2 [Accessed 5 Dec. 2014].

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