Dr. Jared McGuirt (Nutrition) received new funding from the Department of Defense DA Fort Bragg Army Base for the project “Development and testing of a place-based behavioral “nudge” technology intervention to promote healthier food purchases among military service members at Fort Bragg.”
A majority of military service members are overweight or obese, leading to increased health care costs and days of lost work per year, and a potential national security threat. Several individual and community level factors influence dietary intake and thus weight status. One key environmental factor is the locations that military service has access to purchase food where they live and work.
One emerging technology to change how soldiers interact with a food environment is ‘geofencing’, which uses cellular networks and bluetooth to create a virtual perimeter that sends real-time targeted marketing or “nudges” to those with mobile devices that enter the designed space (such as within immediate proximity or 1 mile of the cafeteria or fast-food restaurant). In addition, geo-targeted messages which are place-based allow for tailored messages once service members are inside specific food venues tailored to their shopping habits and individual needs. With service members increasingly using their mobile phones, this may be a viable approach to improve the utilization of healthier dining options on military bases and improve food purchases.
Therefore, the researchers plan to do an in-depth formative evaluation of a healthy eating place-based technology pilot study at Fort Bragg to understand the feasibility of this type of health promotion program in this setting.