Understanding how healthcare providers build consumer trust in the Australian food system: A qualitative study

Heath Pillen, Liz Withall, Emma Tonkin, Paul R. Ward, Samantha B. Meyer, Julie Henderson, Dean McCullum, John Coveney, Annabelle M. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Aim: This study aimed to identify how dietitians and other healthcare providers work to build trust in food systems in the course of providing dietary education. 

Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 purposefully sampled dietitians (n = 5), general practitioners (n = 5), and complementary and alternative medicine practitioners (n = 5) within metropolitan South Australia. Interview data were then interpreted using an inductive thematic analysis approach, involving the construction of themes representing trust-enhancing roles around which beliefs about professional roles, the ‘patient’, and food and health were clustered. 

Results: Healthcare providers communicate beliefs regarding (dis)trust in food systems through: (i) responding to patient queries and concerns following a food incident or scare; (ii) helping patients to identify (un)trustworthy elements of food supply systems; and (iii) encouraging consumption of locally produced and minimally processed food. Importantly, the expression of these roles differed according to participant beliefs about food and health (medico-scientific versus alternative medicine) and their adoption of professional projects that sought to promote medico-scientific ways of thinking about health and diet or manage the failures of Western medicine. 

Conclusion: The development and consolidation of trust-enhancing roles amongst healthcare providers likely requires disciplinary reflection on professional values and the processes by which practitioners apply these values to understanding food systems.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Early online date13 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Apr 2023


  • complementary and alternative medicine
  • food system
  • professional role
  • qualitative research
  • trust


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