Send to

Choose Destination
Public Health Nutr. 2013 Jun;16(6):1000-5. doi: 10.1017/S1368980012005605. Epub 2013 Mar 4.

A socio-ecological perspective on behavioural interventions to influence food choice in schools: alternative, complementary or synergistic?

Author information

DECIPHer UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, 1-3 Museum Place, Cardiff CF10 3BD, UK.



An increasing focus on legislation, policy and guidance on the nutritional content of school food has in part been in response to the limited impact of more behavioural or educational approaches. However, there is a risk that a sole focus on policy-level action may lead to neglect of the important contribution that more behavioural approaches can make as components of effective, coordinated, multilevel action to improve the dietary intake of schoolchildren. The current paper aims to highlight the potential importance of viewing alternative approaches as complementary or synergistic, rather than competing.


The socio-ecological and RE-AIM frameworks are used to provide a theoretical rationale and demonstrate the importance of explicitly identifying the interdependence of policies, interventions and contextual structures and processes. School food case study evidence is used to exemplify how understanding and exploiting these interdependencies can maximise impact on dietary outcomes.


Case studies of trials in schools in the UK (South West England and Wales) and Australia (Victoria).




The case studies provide examples to support the hypothesis that the reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance of school food policies and interventions can be maximised by understanding and exploiting the interdependence between levels in the socio-ecological framework.


Rather than being seen as competing alternatives, diverse approaches to improving the diets of schoolchildren should be considered in terms of their potential to be complementary and synergistic, acting at multiple levels to improve acceptability, fidelity, effectiveness and sustainability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Cambridge University Press Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center