Red light signals danger

June 1, 2007

It is an accepted fact that people in the UK have one of the poorest diets in Europe; with the consumption of poor-quality, low-priced foods, along with lack of exercise fuelling the rise in obesity amongst many other diseases.

In a bid to promote healthier eating, the UK Food Standards Agency has introduced a new kind of food labelling, which uses traffic light colours to signal whether a food item is healthy or not. The idea is to inform the consumer, at first glance, whether fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green).

Although this system is facing intense opposition from, amongst others, food manufacturers and some supermarket chains that are reluctant to introduce such a labelling system, it may represent a simple and effective method of promoting healthy eating to UK residents, irrespective of their age, education and social background.

Time and time again, patient communication and education has revealed itself as a challenging aspect of an ophthalmologist's profession; some ophthalmologists have worked hard to create patient education tools that will assist them in their communications. It's often forgotten, however, that sometimes the best and most effective way of communicating, is the simplest and the cheapest way.

I recently saw some patient education tools that a retina specialist successfully implemented in his practice to aid AMD patient self-monitoring. His method not only helped patients and relatives to become involved through the course of treatment and follow-up, but it also helped reduce unnecessary appointments made by anxious patients. Likewise, it also highlighted worrying cases quickly.

Whether this traffic light labelling system will prove successful in the UK is uncertain, however, it certainly teaches us that the simplest methods of communication are often the best.

Happy reading.

Fedra PavlouEditorfpavlou@advanstar.com