Exploring Food and Health Communicative Practices: An Ethnographic Study in a Suburb of Dakar, Senegal

Binesse, Helene (2022) Exploring Food and Health Communicative Practices: An Ethnographic Study in a Suburb of Dakar, Senegal. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancers and diabetes, kill 41 million people each year, 77% of them in the Global South (World Health Organization, NCDs fact sheets, 2021). In Senegal, NCDs have been increasing, yet the health system appears unable to respond to emerging needs. My study seeks to understand why health education and information to prevent and manage NCDs are often unable to make a difference on the ground. I explore communicative practices, both official and informal, around health and food from the perspective of literacy as a social practice to contribute to this gap in knowledge.

Adopting an ethnographic approach, I stayed over 10 months in Malika, a suburb of Dakar, where I volunteered in a local Non-Governmental Organisation in literacy and development. I accessed community activities relating to health and food in a cooperative house for women, a walking group, and participants’ households and family events. I observed the everyday environment and communicative practices that comprise local knowledges, food practices and gender roles. Bringing key ideas from literacy as a social practice, health promotion and gender, I researched how people learned and shared knowledge in face-to-face and virtual spaces, including community-based health sites and a WhatsApp group.

I found that the verticality of communication prevails: a command-and-control approach to messages and channels in the ways providers produce and disseminate health information and education. Moreover, the dominant use of French language in health-related texts and scientific literacy at both institutional and community-based levels, while the lingua franca is Wolof, reinforces inequalities in access and power. This one-way communication and top-down messaging positions patients as health consumers, disregarding important determinants of women’s health and failing to challenge gender roles. I argue that exploring health literacy through the contextually embedded concept of health communicative practices has the potential to enhance the impact of health education and communication in ways that can empower communities to make informed choices. This is particularly important in the absence of a supportive health infrastructure.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2022 15:43
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2022 15:43
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/89895

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