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Research Project: Improving Nutrition and Physical Activity Related Health Behaviors in Children and Their Environment

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Title: Feasibility of online nutrition education in the workplace: working toward healthy lifestyles

item Thomson, Jessica
item Goodman, Melissa
item LANDRY, ALICIA - University Of Central Arkansas
item Donoghue, Ann - Annie
item CHANDLER, AUDREY - University Of Central Arkansas
item BILDERBACK, RACHEL - University Of Central Arkansas

Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/15/2018
Publication Date: 10/5/2018
Publication URL:
Citation: Thomson, J.L., Goodman, M.H., Landry, A.S., Donoghue, A.M., Chandler, A., Bilderback, R. 2018. Feasibility of online nutrition education in the workplace: working toward healthy lifestyles. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 50(9):868-875.

Interpretive Summary: The annual productivity costs of obesity related absenteeism range between $3.38 billion and $6.38 billion (between $79 and $132 per obese individual). Hence employers have a vested interest in improving and maintaining the health of employees. Nevertheless, privacy and confidentiality concerns may prevent some employees from participating in their workplace wellness programs. Because of these concerns, the primary objectives of the Working Toward Healthy Lifestyles Study was to determine the feasibility and acceptability of an online nutrition education program for weight loss in the workplace, including the collection of body composition data. Additionally, the program’s potential for inducing health improvements in working adults was explored. Study participants were USDA employees at two federal worksites. The online nutrition education course was administered by the Nutrition Weight and Wellness Company and delivered in online format for 12 consecutive weeks between September and December 2016. The program focused on eating real (vs. processed) foods in balance. The retention rate was high (22/26, 85%) as were participants’ ratings of the program components regarding motivation or help for eating healthier (4.0 to 4.7 out of 5 points). Further, significant decreases in blood pressure, weight, body mass index, percent body fat, and visceral fat level were apparent. In conclusion, providing an online nutrition intervention in the federal workplace is feasible and acceptable to employees based on the high retention rate, utilization and positive ratings of program components, and willingness to provide body composition measures observed in this study. Additionally, the program’s potential for promoting weight loss and improving other health outcomes was evident.

Technical Abstract: Objective: Determination of feasibility of online nutrition education in the federal workplace. Design: Pre-test/post-test pilot study with data collection occurring from September to December 2016. Setting: Two United States Department of Agriculture workplaces. Participants: Convenience sample of 26 federal government employees. Post-test response rate was 85% (22/26). Intervention: 12-week online nutrition education program designed and taught by registered dietitian nutritionists. Variables Measured: Program component satisfaction, use, and understanding ratings and clinical measures including body composition, blood pressure, and skin carotenoid level (biomarker for fruit and vegetable intake). Analysis: Paired t tests to determine if significant changes occurred post intervention. Results: Mean number of class videos viewed and program components used were 7 and 5 (out of 12 for both). Mean program component ratings ranged from 4.0 to 4.7 (n=12, maximum score of 5) for the survey items “motivated/helped me to eat healthier.” Statistically significant decreases were observed in body mass index, percent body fat, and visceral fat level. Conclusions and Implications: Online nutrition education in the federal workplace is feasible for some employees as evidenced by the program components’ high satisfaction and understanding ratings and high retention rate. Limited evidence for the intervention’s positive impact on health outcomes was apparent.