Healthy Eating

Sodium Reduction Project a success

Sodium Reduction Project a success

By Christopher Coyne

Last fall, Healthy Life told you about the Broome County Health Department's unveiling of a then-new project designed to help raise awareness within the community about sodium intake. The program was geared toward the public, but also hoped to foster a demand that the food industry lower sodium in their products-something that can impact policy, system and environmental change. Most Americans consume more than twice the amount of sodium that we should; and too much sodium can lead to serious health problems as we age, such as high-blood pressure or stroke.

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The multi-media Sodium Reduction in Communities project catered its messages to most effectively reach the target demographic of adults 51 and older, especially in food shopping situations. The campaign strived to point out that some everyday foods that we regularly put in our shopping cart are dangerously high in sodium. The goal was to encourage consumers to check nutrition labels on their foods; aim for a targeted amount of sodium per day (1500mg or less); and let their grocer's know that they'd like to have more lower-sodium options on market shelves.

The Results

The Broome County Health Department was selected as one of only five national grantees to participate in this Sodium Reduction in Communities Grant, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and led by the New York State Department of Health. In partnership with the American Heart association, Weis Markets, Price Chopper, UHS and the BC Office for Aging, BCHD used a variety of media to get their message to the public. Through targeted TV and radio ads, supermarket displays and demonstrations, taste-testings, surveys and more-the campaign solicited feedback from consumers and seniors.

Nearly 750 surveys were collected and the results were positive and encouraging:
Analysis of the Media Exposure and Behavior Change survey data indicated that 65.7% of respondents had seen or heard television advertisements about lowering the amount of sodium in their diet in the past year, almost 35% had seen or heard advertisements in the grocery store, 20% on the internet, and 15% on the radio . Almost 37% had noticed magazines with tips and recipes that encouraged them to lower the amount of sodium in their diet and more than 35% reported noticing the taste testing demonstrations.

In relation to changes in shopping behaviors in the past year to lower sodium intake, 65.1% of respondents reported reading food labels more often and 55.9% purchased more lower-sodium foods. Only 19% reported no changes in food shopping behaviors. Reported changes in cooking behaviors in the past year included: 53.3% were seasoning their food with spices instead of salt, 48.1% were using lower sodium ingredients in recipes, and 46.3% were cooking more recipes from scratch. Only 16% reported no changes in cooking behaviors.

In relation to purchasing lower sodium products in the past year, 58% reported purchasing lower sodium soups or broths, 45.6% reported purchasing lower sodium lunch meats, 41.7% reported purchasing lower sodium canned vegetables, and 35.3% reported purchasing lower sodium sliced cheeses.

As far as reaching the right people, getting the message across and encouraging consumers to seek out lower-sodium alternatives; the Broom County Health Department feels they've met they're goals across all sectors of the community with their Sodium Reduction in Communities project. Hopefully those impacted by this campaign will continue to spread awareness through word-of-mouth and we can continue to build a healthier community!

Broome County Health Department
Sodium Reduction in Communities Project.