Dr. Jared McGuirt (Nutrition) received new funding from DHHS Health Resources and Service Administration for the project “Designing and testing a community context-driven, evidence-based virtual avatar coaching approach to improve access to health promotion programs for low-income children and families.” Dr. Omari Dyson and Dr. Christopher Rhea are co-principal investigators on the project.
“Community health promotion programs are important sources of obesity prevention programming for low-income children,” the abstract states. “Unfortunately, due to barriers including time, limited transportation, accessibility, and monetary resources, low-income and rural individuals, who are most impacted by childhood obesity, are often not able to access this type of programming. Virtual peer coaching using avatars, an interactive educational experience more engaging than one way videos, may be a way to reach low-income individuals and people living in rural areas with intriguing health promotion programs that may not have been previously available or accessible, and thus, may help community nutrition education programs save costs while also increasing reach. Therefore, we propose the design of a low-cost virtual reality avatar coaching approach accessible via the internet to augment and increase access to existing evidence-based federal community health promotion programming. In this approach, the Avatar coach will present the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) sponsored and evidence-based ‘Bright Futures in Practice: Nutrition’ curriculum, in an interactive way, so that participants can have an engaging educational experience.”