Testing a Custom Veggie Boost Program for Young Adults in Rural Areas

David Palenski
14th January, 2024

Testing a Custom Veggie Boost Program for Young Adults in Rural Areas

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

In the peaceful tranquility of rural Australia, young adults are struggling with a health challenge that many might find surprising – they're not eating enough vegetables. Have you ever considered how technology could encourage a reluctant eater to reach for a carrot instead of a cookie? Researchers are pioneering an intriguing approach to this dietary dilemma: a digital health program tailored to boost the vegetable intake among the young adults of Loddon Campaspe and Colac Otway Shire in Victoria. But what makes this innovation stand out? It's not just any app – it's a personalizable intervention known as Veg4Me. Is it possible that a web application can encourage healthier eating habits where traditional methods have fallen short? This new initiative poses a fascinating question: can a digital strategy tailored to individual preferences do more to change eating habits than a one-size-fits-all approach? To find this out, a randomized controlled trial has been crafted, exploring the potential of Veg4Me to make a real impact on the way young adults consume vegetables. Here's how it works: over 12 weeks, 150 participants, all young adults who are not eating the recommended servings of vegetables and own an internet-connected device, will be divided into two groups. One group will experience the personal touch of the Veg4Me program, with content and prompts tailored specifically to their tastes and lifestyle. The other group will receive a standard, non-personalized version of the program. Think of it as a head-to-head competition between the bespoke and the generic – but who will come out on top? The primary goal is to gauge whether this approach is feasible – can these individuals be recruited and retained for the duration of the study? Will they actively engage with the app? Beyond just counting participant numbers, the researchers are delving into user engagement, assessing how usable and enjoyable the app is, and, crucially, whether there is a discernible change in vegetable intake and eating habits. Could this be the key to unlocking a healthier diet for those in remote areas, where a trip to the grocery store can be an expedition of its own? As part of an in-depth look at how the program is received, some participants will engage in interviews to provide a narrative to the numbers, sharing their experiences in their own words. What will their stories reveal about digital attempts to influence diet in rural settings? Ethically approved by Deakin University's own Human Ethics Advisory Group, the study respects the well-being and consent of its participants. Following the data gathering, the findings won't just sit on a dusty shelf; they'll be shared with the participants via email and brought to the broader scientific community through journals and conferences. This ensures that the insights gleaned from this study won't be confined to the academic echo chamber but instead have the potential to inform future health interventions in similar communities. Now, let's ponder the implications. If successful, this personalized digital intervention could blaze a trail for health promotion strategies worldwide. Imagine the local and global impact if communities everywhere could benefit from customized digital prompts nudging them toward healthier choices? Could a personalizable app make the difference in encouraging young people to include more vegetables in their diet, leading to long-term health benefits? As these young adults tap their screens and hopefully, their plates fill with greens, researchers will be watching. The outcome of this study could lead to a new frontier in public health, one where our smartphones help us to live longer, healthier lives. Is the key to better nutrition in the rural world right there in our pockets? Only time—and the results of this groundbreaking trial—will tell.



Main Study

1) Determining the feasibility of a codesigned and personalised intervention (Veg4Me) to improve vegetable intake in young adults living in rural Australian communities: protocol for a randomised controlled trial.

Published 11th January, 2024


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