Strategies to improve health communication: Can health professionals be heroes?

Eva L. Jenkins, Jasmina Ilicic, Annika Molenaar, Shinyi Chin, Tracy A. McCaffrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Communicating evidence-based nutrition messages to the public is challenging and is often in conflict with popular opinions, particularly from social media influencers (SMIs). In order to increase engagement with nutrition professionals (NPs) on social media, we aimed to explore young adults’ perceptions of the authenticity and trustworthiness of SMIs and NPs Instagram posts. A cross-sectional questionnaire was administered to students (n = 149) from an Australian University. Participants viewed a real-life Instagram profile and one post from both a NP and a SMI. Main outcomes were post authenticity and trustworthiness, and emotional message appeals measured on five-point Likert scales. Regression models were developed to assess whose post (the NP or SMI) was perceived to be more authentic and trustworthy. Participants were young adults (median age (25th, 75th percentiles): 20 (19,21)), with approximately half identifying as female. A high heroic message appeal (+1SD above mean) significantly increased the perceived authenticity of the NPs post only (p = 0.01). Post authenticity enhanced post trustworthiness, but only when a heroic message appeal was used by the NP. When appropriate, NPs should convey positive emotions such as bravery and success to enhance the authenticity and trustworthiness of their posts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1861
Number of pages19
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2020


  • Authenticity
  • Emotional message appeals
  • Nutrition professionals
  • Social media
  • Social media influencers
  • Trustworthiness
  • University students
  • Young adults

Cite this