Public health professor receives 2019 Nutrition Education Program Impact Award
The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Nutrition Education Program Impact Award is given to an individual or group for a nutrition education program, practice or intervention that has resulted in documented changes in behavior. This year, the award was presented to wichealth.org, which was developed by WMU public health professor Robert Bensley.
Wichealth.org is a multistate-funded behavior change system that utilizes the internet to provide parent-child feeding and adult nutrition behavior change adopted for use with clients in Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinics across 30 states. Since its inception, the system has provided more than 6 million WIC-client nutrition education lessons.
The idea for the platform came from a session at a 1998 public health conference. A presenter described a system where students answered a series of questions and were taken to one of several websites based totally on their answers.
While the process seems common today, it was groundbreaking at the time and gave Dr. Bensley the idea to create a web-based "virtual counselor" to help direct individuals to information and receive virtual follow-ups. A Michigan WIC representative approached him to see if the system could be modified for their practice.
Dr. Robert Bensley
"At the start we just wanted to help people," says Dr. Bensley. "We were excited when the first year netted 5,844 completed lessons and never imagined we’d hit 1 million, let alone the total of 7 million we are soon to surpass."
wichealth.org has grown to include more than 50 nutrition education lessons sponsored by USDA, state WIC agencies, SNAP-Ed, Seafood Nutrition Partnership, United Dairy Industry of Michigan and the US Food Safety and Inspection Service. As the leading WIC internet-based nutrition education system in the U.S., wichealth.org impacts more than 1 million WIC-client nutrition education lessons per year. Each year, wichealth.org reaches over five percent of all U.S. children under age five.
The system is now in its fifth iteration and features a soon-to-be patented intelligent system that has extensive functionality and features. The platform can be used for a variety of purposes and we has been applied to other grant-funded projects.
ABOUT THE SOCIETY FOR NUTRITION EDUCATION AND BEHAVIOR
SNEB is an international organization of nutrition education professionals who are dedicated to promoting effective nutrition education and healthy behavior through research, policy and practice with a vision of healthy communities, food systems and behaviors. The Nutrition Education Program Impact Award recognizes an individual or group for a nutrition education program or practice that has resulted in documented changes in behavior. Candidates are evaluated by the level of program impact, quality of design, innovativeness and usefulness for nutrition educators. Read more at www.sneb.org/awards.