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Health edutainment and dietary habits in Saudi Arabia:Results of a population-based survey

Manal M Samarkandy, Shorouk Haidar Ahmad

Introduction: Traditional nutrition education programs have shown inadequate efficacy to change the dietary behaviour alone. Recently, new approaches with proven positive impacts on dietary habits and other healthy behavior’s have been innovated. These approaches depend on educating people in entertaining ways such as comics, virtual reality, gamification, video games and TV documentaries which is called “Health edutainment”. These user-friendly platforms will reach all age groups to promote healthy lifestyles and wellbeing.
The main objectives of this survey are to;(1) evaluate the community’s needs in the area of health edutainment to determine the priorities and develop appropriate services’ domains and (2) explore new ideas originating from the community to enhance the health edutainment program.
This was a cross-sectional observational study. Data was collected using an online population-based survey published on the website of the Saudi Ministry of Health and shared through the official twitter account. Collected data was analyzed using SPSS software after being refined and summarized.
Results: A total of 611 participants with equal gender distribution responded to this survey. Most of the participants (82.5%) were aged 20 to 44 years old. A total of 56 participants (9.2%) said that they would prefer sports and active games as health edutainment, 55 participants (9.0%) prefer TV programs and advertising, 49 (8.0%) prefer movies (cartoon, documentary or cinema), and 46(7.5%) prefer electronic games. The most commonly reported unhealthy phenomena were bad eating habits (32.1%) and low physical activity (12.6%). Obesity, nutrition, physical activity, diabetes, health awareness in general and cancer were reported by 18.7%, 17.5%, 14.1%, 8.2%, 7.0% and 5.6% of the participants as their main health concerns. The preferred edutainment methods were electronic applications (29.1%), comics (20.0%), series (16.2%) and electronic games (10.6%).
The health edutainment intervention should focus on healthy nutritive habits, physical activity, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Innovative approaches in health education such as games, TV shows and healthy food branding can significantly enhance the knowledge and behaviors of the Saudi society.

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