ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Facilitating behaviour change: Identifying levers of change in food handling practice in the home.

David Spicer

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 8 - Law Building, Room 100
Date: 2012-07-10 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-04-24


This paper will include discussion of the value of ethnographic observation in research that aims to identify risky food handling practice, and to develop strategies to change practice to reduce harm from food borne illness. Two research projects, each designed and conducted by the presenter, David Spicer will be used to illustrate the value of ethnographic observation in this field.

Ethnographic observation is a qualitative technique that provides an understanding of knowledge, practice and choice via direct observation in every day settings. Two research projects that used ethnographic observation to examine safe food handling practice in the home, and develop strategies to promote safe practice will be discussed:

1.‘Food Safety Knowledge and Practice in Victorian Homes’ used observational techniques to identify Victorians’ levels of knowledge of safe food handling, and domains of practice that could be considered risky. The observational techniques involved a researcher observing Victorians as they prepared food in their homes.
2.‘Identifying Drivers of Safe Food Handling Practice in the Home’ built on the findings from the previous study. The project’s design was based on a Behaviour Change Model that identified both levels of knowledge and practice, and motivating factors that could be used to affect change in behaviour. Ethnographic observations were used to identify areas of risky practice and drivers of change.

Both projects incorporated quantitative surveys to enhance the qualitative insights obtained via observation. Each project was commissioned by the Department of Health, Victoria.
The paper will include discussion of the advantages and limitations of using ethnographic techniques; how qualitative ethnographic techniques can complement quantitative research, and possible broader application of these research designs.