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Beyond the Greasy Spoon: Improving the Diet of Male Construction Workers

Commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, the Men's Health Forum has undertaken research exploring the diet habits of male construction workers.

Construction is a male-dominated industry with a large proportion of workers from a manual background.  It is a complex industry populated by small businesses, involving intricate contractual arrangements and significant numbers of mobile workers.  It has also one of the highest incidences of work-related illness of any industry.  All of this combines to make effective targeting of the men who work within construction extremely difficult particularly in terms of finding effective routes through to the on-site workers and identifying clear lines of management responsibility for employee health beyond the traditional health and safety and risk minimisation roles.

The MHF set out to explore one particular aspect of health with construction workers, namely diet and nutrition and undertook a research programme which looked at what the existing evidence already said but also generating new primary material by speaking with industry stakeholders and construction workers themselves.

Stephen Sibbald, the MHF's director of operations, said: 'There is evidence to show that improving nutritional knowledge and behavour is a priority for both men and women but there are particualr challenges in changing men's dietary behaviour.  There is evidence for example that men generally have less knowledge of particular foodstuffs, are cynical about public health messages and reject healthy food on the grounds of poor taste and inability to satisfy.  These obstacles to changing behaviour appear to be reinforced and added to for male workers in the construction industry, many of whom consume high-fat foods in the belief that this will enable them to undertake a physically-demanding job. The study found also that the catering arrangements on-site, if they existed at all, often offered no healthy alternatives or indeed information about nutrition'.

The executive summary for this project can be found here.

Page created on March 31st, 2010

Page updated on April 1st, 2010