AUBURN, ALA—Year after year, thousands of third graders across Alabama take charge of their health while participating in Extension Nutrition Education Program’s obesity prevention initiative Body Quest. The innovative and effective youth initiative brings technology and healthy snacks into low-income schools as part of a 15-week intervention that empowers youth to make better food and drink choices and be more physically active.
The Body Quest texting initiative is keeping parents motivated to make healthier recipes and to make positive changes in personal eating, food shopping and physical activity practices.
Text messages with nutrition information, tips and action prompts are sent three times a week to the cell phones of parents whose children are enrolled in the Body Quest program.
“This method of reaching parents with limited resources has proven to be successful because it overcomes typical barriers such as time, transportation and motivation that parents face with nutrition programs by using technology that is already integrated into daily life,” says Dr. Barbara Struempler, director of Extension nutrition programs in Alabama.
In a 2016 post survey texting poll, more than 53 percent of treatment parents participated. Parents could voluntarily opt out of the texting portion of Body Quest at any time, but 80 percent chose to continue receiving texts for the entire course of study. Even three months after the final survey question was sent, 59 percent of parents chose to continue receiving text messages.
Many parents texted positive feedback throughout Body Quest. One such text was “Since receiving the text messages, I’ve lost 20 pounds. Body Quest has truly touched me.”
- 96 percent enjoyed the Body Quest messages
- 74 percent eat more vegetables
- 89 percent of parents were asked by their child to buy more vegetables
- 80 percent noticed their child eating more vegetables
- 80 percent buy more vegetables
- 82 percent cut back on sugary drinks
- 81 percent engaged in more physical activity with their child
“Research consistently shows the difficulty of reaching parents with nutrition education and obesity prevention messages and impacting the home environment, added Struempler. “Parents, particularly those with limited resources, have many barriers to taking part in and benefiting from school-based interventions. The success of the Body Quest parent initiative is attributed at least in part, to the success of the text messaging education.”
In Alabama, the Body Quest program is currently taught in 56 counties, 112 schools and 352 classes.
The key objectives of the program are:
- To increase fruit and vegetable consumption through the School Lunch Program
- Impact students’ choices regarding sugary beverage consumption and physical activity
- Help parents make the home more vegetable friendly through recipe preparation
- Motivate parents to make positive changes through text message reminders