Can even minimal news coverage influence consumer health-related behaviour? A case study of iodized salt sales, Australia

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Lack of iodine in the diet can cause a spectrum of conditions, known as iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). While iodized salt has been retailed in Australia since the 1960s, sales have remained low, at ∼10% of total edible salt sales. Salt has never been promoted, advertised or discounted by retailers or manufacturers. Extensive news coverage of health issues has often been shown to influence consumer behaviour. But can even modest news coverage generate changes in consumer health-related behaviour? We report a significant increase (5.2%) in national iodized salt sales after a brief period of television and newspaper reports about IDD and the benefits of using iodized salt during and after the Australian National Iodine Nutrition Study in 2003 and 2004. We conclude that even brief news media exposure can influence health-related decisions.

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