Workplace Wellness for the Web: Nutrition

Period of Performance: 09/01/2007 - 08/31/2008


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Inflexxion, Inc.
Newton, MA 02464
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): (WOH-N) will be a Web-based health risk reduction program focused on nutrition, dietary management, and the role of physical activity in supporting health risk reduction. The negative health and social consequences of poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles are well documented in the adult population, particularly in relation to certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Healthy People 2010 sets worksite-specific objectives for increasing employers' offerings of health promotion activities, and employee participation by 75%. The workplace is an outstanding venue for delivering health risk reduction programs to large populations, quickly and efficiently. With the cost of healthcare rising at an alarming rate, companies are looking for solutions to help lower costs and workplace programs are becoming a central part of an overall corporate strategy. Employers who support employees' to reduce health risks, benefit in terms of reduced absenteeism, reduced insurance costs, fewer incidences of disabling injuries and illnesses, increased productivity and improved morale. The use of a theory driven Web-based resource is a promising way to address the growing problem of poor nutrition among adults, especially when offered in the workplace where healthy lifestyle changes can be promoted and reinforced. Such innovative resources improve availability of information, preserve anonymity, and make it easy for individuals to acquire knowledge and initiate health promoting changes about their nutrition and dietary habits. The development and testing of confidential, online resources available to employers is timely given the obesity epidemic and rising costs of health care. The financial reality is that if obesity-related costs continue to rise at the current unsustainable rates, they will severely strain the US health care system in the not-too-distant future. WOH-N will provide a tailored, interactive, program that will provide validated nutrition information and tailored feedback about personal risk factors in a media rich, interactive environment. WOH-N will combine state-of-the-art knowledge about tailoring health promotion strategies with advances in interactive technology. It will be customizable for specific purchasers and deal with the barriers to health enhancing behavior that are endemic to workplace settings. Phase I results strongly suggest that such a program is not only feasible, but potentially highly effective for employees and cost-effective for employers. By combining: (1) scientifically derived and validated content which is tailored to the individual user; (2) recognition and integration of the workplace context as part of the intervention strategy; and (3) use of state-of-the-art digital media formats and IVR technology to provide a rich, engaging, and flexible users experience, WOH-N will be a unique and cost-effective offering in the field of employee health risk management. A Phase II field trial is planned with a large employer group to test the hypothesis that participants exposed to WOH-N will demonstrate 1) significantly healthier eating and exercise behaviors, 2) lower BMI and blood pressure, and 3)significantly improved nutrition knowledge. Chronic diseases are now the major cause of death and disability worldwide. Conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, cancer and respiratory diseases, now account for 59% of the 57 million deaths annually and 46% of the global burden of disease, and are expected to rise to 73% and 60%, respectively, by 2020 (WHO, 2002). A few, largely preventable, risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity account for the majority of the chronic disease burden. Changes in dietary habits and physical activity can have a major impact in reducing the rates of these chronic diseases (WHO, 2004).