Use the right metaphor

We can use metaphor to explain how context shapes children’s health in straightforward, concrete ways. Metaphor bring abstract concepts to life without dumbing down.

Tip:

When we use metaphor to explain – and not just assert – why something happens, we increase people’s understanding of and support for solutions.

Tip:

Talk about options – not choices – to focus on our surroundings.

Use the rivers to explain how unhealthy food dominates our food environment.

To use this metaphor, call to mind external factors within a system that:

  • Is made of different elements that are not balanced
  • Is acting on our environment in ways that cause harm to families
  • If left unchecked, could cause even more harm
  • Can be mitigated upstream with the right action.

Not like this:

“Families are drowning in a tidal wave of unhealthy food. And in its aftermath, it’s impossible for parents and caregivers to make much-needed healthy choices for their children.”

Like this:

“We can improve all children’s health in the UK by working upstream to improve the flow of affordable, healthy food options and opportunities to run and play. Right now, the floodgates of unhealthy food options are open wide, and these options are overwhelming children and families.”

Here’s what this could look like in practice:

Use the stage metaphor to explain the influence of advertising on children’s tastes.

To use this metaphor, explicitly position children as the viewers of ad content that:

  • Influences in ways that are artificial and intentional
  • Acts without parental mediation
  • Could prioritise healthier options if different choices were made.

Not like this:

“Pester power puts parents and caregivers in an impossible position. Kids are naturally drawn to high-sugar, high-fat food in bright, shiny packaging – and pestering in stores shines a light on these products for parents.”

Like this:

“Unhealthy food options are in the spotlight. Aggressive advertising aimed at children and fun promotions in supermarkets cast unhealthy options in a starring role in young people’s minds. Healthier food options get lost in the background or are pushed entirely offstage. We need to set the stage for good health for all children.”

Here’s what this could look like in practice:

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