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Healthy eating: from research to recommendations

By Victoria Hunt and Jagruti Shah, 28 January 2018


Woman filming with a smartphone on tripod in a kitchen

The NHS.UK healthy eating discovery explored a range of hypotheses, including:

Healthy eating - from Discovery to Alpha sketch

Journey to Alpha: click to view full sketch

  • establishing a need for trustworthy healthy eating content on NHS.UK
  • understanding the tone of voice people responded to the best
  • usage of healthy eating apps and tools
  • how social media and videos influenced people’s understanding and choices
  • how journeys with a health concern differed from those without
  • healthcare professionals’ involvement in the healthy eating journey

See Healthy eating: identifying our users’ needs for some high-level findings from the report.

We also learnt more about the work being done in this space, not only by Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS England Diabetes Prevention Programme but also third sector initiatives such as the National Charity Partnership.

Ideation workshop

Our research phase completed, in November we ran an off-site workshop with partners across PHE and NHS Digital. Rather than feeling constrained by the status quo, we wanted to think freely and generate a wealth of ideas.

To facilitate this in a structured way, and with the pain points and user needs in mind, the core healthy eating team prepared for the day by devising a series of “How Might We” (HMW) questions, such as:

  • HMW help people with unbalanced diets realise what they’re eating?
  • HMW make nutrition guidelines simpler and more personal?
  • HMW help people get healthy foods on a low budget?
  • HMW be a self-service dietitian?
  • HMW provide encouragement to users?
  • HMW influence supermarkets and food places to encourage healthier purchase decisions?

The attendees were briefed on the day and between the groups we generated hundreds of ideas across a range of themes, offline as well as online, which was a fantastic result.

Some creative ideas on the day included:

  • Encouraging users to upload photos of their meals to a tool that would show its nutritional value at a glance
  • Creating “superhero” fruit and veg characters to encourage young fussy eaters
  • Partnering with TV shows to include quick healthy recipes in between episodes
  • Subscription to a monthly herb garden, delivered by drone
  • Supermarket rewards for choosing healthy options, or vouchers for fruit and veg rather than points

Shortlisting ideas for Alpha

Back in the office we sifted and prioritised the ideas based on how closely they met the needs identified in our research. From there we began to map the ideas to a key user journey: that of a middle-aged man who has received some kind of health scare and now wants to make changes.

Bob’s story

With help from our colleague Nuno Marques and his design skills, we devised Bob’s journey, which captures our service vision for healthy eating:

Bob's journey 1

Bob’s journey: click to see full image

Bob's journey 2

Bob’s journey: click to see full image


Recommendations for Alpha

Keeping Bob’s story in mind as our vision, we identified three strands of work with concepts that we wanted to take forward for developing and testing in Alpha.

1. Redesigning the existing healthy eating content based on identified user needs.

See Healthy eating: a content transformation for the recommendations and progress made in Alpha, including some early prototyping.

2. Engaging healthy eating videos

Healthy eating video teamThe current healthy eating videos, such as this video on 5 A DAY, were felt to be too long and outdated in feel when users watched it. Undaunted, our enterprising video team (pictured right, at work) made some proof-of-concept contemporary healthy recipe videos to test on social media, which immediately generated feedback that was both positive and useful. You can see these on the NHS.UK YouTube healthy eating playlist, and watch this space for more to come.

3. Healthy eating tools

We found both users and healthcare professionals responded positively to using food diaries as part of the healthy eating journey, so we wanted to test this further in Alpha, and we hypothesised that people would be more likely to stick to a photo food diary than having to write or type in entries.

We also wanted to explore the online healthy recipe space further, working with trusted partners and harnessing existing technology.

What’s next for healthy eating?

We will be pausing the healthy eating Alpha from 31 January 2018 to focus on emerging priorities relating to the Five Year Forward View. The intention is to pick this work up again as soon as possible.

Please have a read of our blogs on headlines from the healthy eating user research and our latest update on the healthy eating content redesign so far.

We’re very excited about the work done to date and would like to thank all our partners for their help and support. Please feel free to email me with any questions.

Last edited: 30 September 2019 1:42 pm