How to Help WIC Moms Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices.
Happy New Year! As we enter 2015, many of us make New Year’s Resolutions, and the number one resolution centers around health: lose weight, exercise more, and eat healthier. We’re all feeling a little blah, considering holiday overindulgence. This issue will focus on how to help moms make healthy lifestyle choices – Warm Regards Jan 2015.
As health professionals, you know that fats and sugars make us feel tired, sluggish, and unmotivated. They create a cycle of cravings and often increase depression. When we’re able to break that vicious cycle by adding fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meats, and exercise into our lives, it does wonders for our health. We feel better, have more energy, and think clearer.
A secondary, but equally important, benefit is the impact healthy choices have on our children. Children are going to copy us. If we load up on chips and sodas, so will they. But when we encourage our families to eat healthy and stay active while under our roof, the odds are greatly increased they will continue these lifestyles into adulthood.
The goal of WIC is to improve the health of infants and children. WIC is a tremendous educational resource teaching moms how to properly take care of themselves while pregnant/nursing, and how to manage the health of their children. But as you know, these healthy choices need to become healthy lifestyles to truly affect change. If WIC can effectively create behavioral changes in moms, it will filter down to the children as they grow and continue with their own families.
First, let’s look at trends and habits of the Y Generation (aka Millennials), which comprise the majority of today’s WIC caseload and 1/3 of our nation’s adults.
How can WIC help?
Dividing the cart. When shoppers had or placed a dividing line in the middle of their cart and asked to put all fruits and vegetables in the front half and everything else in the back, they found shoppers bought 23% more fruits and vegetables than shoppers whose carts were not split in half.
The slim person’s kitchen. After studying slim people’s vs overweight people’s kitchens in Syracuse, NY, it was discovered that the average woman who kept a bag of chips on the counter weighed 8 pounds more, and those who kept one box of breakfast cereal visible weighed 21 pounds more than their neighbors who didn’t. When it’s “in sight, it’s in the stomach.” We eat what we see, not what we don’t. Dr. Wansink’s book suggests rearranging the pantry and refrigerator so that the first visible foods are the best for us.
Experts who study behavior change agree that long-lasting change is most likely achieved when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking. Studies have also shown that goals are easier to reach if they’re specific (“I’ll walk 20 minutes a day,” rather than “I’ll get more exercise”) and not too numerous (having too many goals limits the amount of attention and willpower you can devote to reaching any single goal).
Here are a few factors perceived as motivational for Millennials:
- Being positive, upbeat, and encouraging (fun stuff counts)
- Suggesting a goal that they believe is attainable
- Being short and to-the-point (take charge of your weight)
- Reflecting information they already know
Eight of the nine sufficiently powered studies found evidence to support the effectiveness of text messaging as a tool for behavior change in disease prevention and management.
Significant clinical outcomes observed included greater weight loss in obese adults at 4 and 12 months, and greater decrease in hemoglobin A1C levels in adolescents and obese and non-obese adult diabetics.
This evidence is consistent with existing literature suggesting that mobile phones are a useful tool for interventions seeking improvement in health outcomes. Specifically, it supports recent evidence that text messaging is a useful tool for behavior change interventions.
Personalizing M-Health text messages:
An interesting study was conducted by Seattle’s King County in 2010 at two mass vaccination clinic settings with 1,225 ethnically diverse attendees. This study is posted in the American Journal of Public Health: Text Messaging to Communicate with Public Health Audiences. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/781061_5
Researchers looked at PHI, electronic information, the Security/Privacy Rule, and the effectiveness of text messages sent to its participants. This study concluded, “Despite inherent risks, public health departments have a responsibility to use communication channels that will reach their communities effectively, particularly in instances in which there is a benefit to the public’s health. Texting is a powerful communication channel, in part because it can be customized. If all personally identifying information is removed, this may eliminate the greatest strength of text messaging.”
“In summary, we recommend that the federal government take steps now to clarify how health departments can reasonably use text messaging to send protected health information. Text messaging is a technology that reaches the vast majority of US adults and has the potential to be a powerful tool to improve health and wellbeing.”
A study on Marketing to Millennials states, “As consumers, we’re now expecting a more personalized experience. This is a result of our current experience on the web, where we spend the large majority of our time and where we’re seeing more prevalent contextual experiences of content and messages tailored to our behaviors and needs.
In summary, it will be easier for moms to make healthy lifestyle changes if they: 1) are educated in understanding labels and encouraged to think up creative healthy food options for their families; 2) have attainable goals to incorporate physical activity into their daily life; 3) make small changes in their food environment; and 4) receive positive, upbeat, and personalized mobile health text messages made to encourage self-motivation.