Engaging in research into health and consumption behaviors is incredibly insightful. This field of study allows us to better understand the behaviors of the general public, which is vital for supporting a healthier population. Herein lies my journey into the world of research: not only to fill in the gaps of our understanding, but to use this information to spread awareness of the importance of the implications this poses to our society.
In my final year of high school, I have undertaken several voluntary internships as part of my university application process. Among all these experiences, the most engaging and insightful internship I participated in would be the one I completed at Mahidol University. I had the privilege of working with one of the research teams at the Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR). The project I was a part of aimed to survey the consumption behavior of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) among Thai people. This includes SSB, which displays the Healthier Choice Logo (HCL) on their packages. The HCL was developed to help Thai consumers identify foods that are considered healthier choices with fewer calories, less fat, and/or lower concentrations of sugar.
My first task as part of their team was to familiarize myself with the project’s objectives. One of my mentors provided me with a copy of the survey given out to participants and tasked me with translating its contents into English. As I immersed myself in the translation process, I found myself fascinated by the painstaking attention to detail required to procure the most accurate data. But most of all, I found myself intrigued by the importance of the research’s purpose and its far-reaching impacts on Thai citizens nationwide.
The further I delved into the research, the more heightened my own awareness of the ‘Healthier Choice’ labeled beverages became. The ‘Healthier Choice’ labels were telling of a beverage’s nutritional benefits in comparison to regular beverages; however, such a key indicator was easily overlooked by the general public. This obliviousness highlighted a very obvious flaw in the design: the obscure placement, leading to it going unnoticed by the general public, leading many to unknowingly opt for unhealthier drink choices, unaware there were healthier options on the market. Without this internship, I wouldn’t have thought about how beverage choice was relevant to our population’s health; however, my participation has contributed to my respect for those who must collect data to resolve these issues.
As the entire process of research continued to unfold before me, witnessing this procedure only served to heighten my own awareness of the care researchers put into their projects. Prior to this experience, I had seldom considered the importance of researchers to the population; however, during this internship, I found myself understanding the importance of such work. For instance, by studying sweetened beverages and working towards the development of accessible, healthier alternatives, countless individuals could be spared heart disease, obesity, and high cholesterol levels, contributing to bettering the health of the Thai people.
In conclusion, I have come to realize that conducting research serves as the basis for the necessary changes made to campaigns, companies, and even policy makers nationwide to promote better health. Especially in an era marked by concerns about health and well-being, it is of utmost importance to create healthier beverages more readily available to the people, which is precisely why understanding consumption behaviors is vital to the longevity of the country. Without this eye-opening experience at Mahidol’s Institute for Population and Social Research, I would have been unable to understand the true significance of research in niche fields. However, my appreciation for this has blossomed, and I am delighted I was able to be a part of such an insightful project.
ภาพปก freepik.com (premium license)