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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evaluating the use of citizens’ juries in food policy: a case study of food regulation

Julie Henderson1, Elizabeth House2, John Coveney2*, Samantha Meyer2, Rachel Ankeny3, Paul Ward2 and Michael Calnan4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia

2 Discipline of Public Health, School of Medicine, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia

3 School of History and Politics, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia

4 School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:596  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-596

Published: 19 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Deliberative engagement techniques and citizens’ juries are touted as means of incorporating the public into policy decision-making, managing community expectations and increasing commitment to public health policy. This paper reports a study to examine the feasibility of citizens’ juries as a means of collecting data to inform public health policy related to food regulation through evaluation of the conduct of a citizens’ jury.

Methods

A citizens’ jury was conducted with a representative sample of 17 South Australians to explore their willingness to consider the proposition that food and drink advertising and/or sponsorship should be banned at children’s sporting events.

Results

The results showed that, in relation to the central proposition and evaluation data from the jury, opinion on the proposition remained comparatively stable. Most jurors indicated that they thought that food and drink sponsorship and/or advertising at children’s sporting events would have little or no effect on altering children’s diet and eating habits, with the proportion increasing during the jury process. Jurors were given evaluation sheets about the content of the jury and the process of the citizens’ jury to complete at the end of the session. The evaluation of the citizens’ jury process revealed positive perceptions. The majority of jurors agreed that their knowledge of the issues of food and drink sponsorship in children’s sport had increased as a result of participation in the citizens’ jury. The majority also viewed the decision-making process as fair and felt that their views were listened to. One important response in the evaluation was that all jurors indicated that, if given the opportunity, they would participate in another citizens’ jury.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that the citizens’ jury increased participant knowledge of the issue and facilitated reflective discussion of the proposition. Citizens’ juries are an effective means of gaining insight into public views of policy and the circumstances under which the public will consider food regulation; however a number of issues need to be considered to ensure the successful conduct of a citizens’ jury.

Keywords:
Citizens’ juries; Deliberative democracy; Food regulation; Food sponsorship; Children sporting events