Barbara Lohse is on a mission to encourage healthy eating behaviors. By providing effective, free resources promoting nutrition and lifestyle tools, the Rochester Institute of Technology researcher hopes to reach 10,000 New Yorkers.
Lohse has designed About Eating, a free program for people with limited resources, available at RIT’s Nutrition Education Engineering and Designs Center. Now, through a $194,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, Lohse is able to disseminate her nutrition education and healthy lifestyle tools across the state and target underserved communities, including Spanish-speaking New Yorkers, RIT says. The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation funds programs and initiatives across New York State that provide either direct health care services or address the social determinants of health.
“We are going to do a marketing stratification in whatever way works for each fiscal region—social media, email, newsletter, listening sessions, or brochures,” says Lohse, who heads RIT’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition. “Our hope is that we will get 1,000 people in each fiscal region to at least click on the link to start the website. Our goal is to reach 10,000 people.”
New York has 10 regions—including the Finger Lakes, which includes Monroe County. Lohse hopes to use the funding from Mother Cabrini to reach these areas and the people they serve.
About Eating is a tested, web-based nutrition education program for low-income adults interested in healthy eating behaviors. It features six online modules that focus on physical activity, body image, eating attitudes, and constructs of the Satter Eating Competence Model. These include food acceptance, regulation of food intake and contextual skills such as meal planning and shopping on a budget. Participants can choose when to participate in validated online surveys, which measure learning success
“One person’s experience with the program can be very different than another person’s based on their interests,” Lohse says.
The healthy lifestyle information will be translated into Spanish by the Ibero American Action League.
“We will do qualitative interviews with Spanish-speaking New Yorkers to see what they think about the program and the translation,” Lohse says.
About Eating grew from a multi-state study that focused on promoting healthy eating to college students. Lohse, who was a researcher on the grant, tailored content for the underserved population she worked with in Pennsylvania through SNAP-Ed, the educational arm of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, and added a module on exercise, RIT says.
In 2015, a randomized controlled study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that participants improved in their ability to make food budgets, use nutrition labels, and plan healthy meals. Lohse added a sixth section on body weight and size called “About My Size.”
Today, About Eating is included in introductory nutrition classes in RIT’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition. Lohse teaches a graduate class called “Dissemination and Implementation Science in Health and Well-being.”
Dissemination science, she says, refers to “the timely connection of programs that are backed by science with organizations and people that need them.”
Dissemination helps impart and share information through evidence-based interactions. Research shows that it helps to address population-level nutrition issues by linking science with practice.
The ability to ask questions, through validated online surveys in About Eating, and generate knowledge necessary to develop strategies and innovations can improve outcomes. Ultimately, these practices could be used in health care settings to augment the quality of life.
Lohse’s work in disseminating About Eating to New Yorkers is expected to enrich her class discussions as well.
“It’s real-life material that I’ll be able to bring back to the classroom,” Lohse says. “The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is not only helping New Yorkers, it’s helping in the way RIT can educate students, who may ultimately end up helping New Yorkers when they enter the workforce.”