Evaluating the use of citizens' juries in food policy: a case study of food regulation
Coveney, John David
Meyer, Samantha B
Ward, Paul Russell
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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.