Employees who receive automated emails and letters with personalized comments about their cafeteria purchases can choose healthier foods, according to a new study published on June 7 in JAMA network open.
The study – led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston – looked at 602 Mass General employees who regularly used the hospital’s cafeterias. Researchers found that an automated intervention using food purchase data increased healthy cafeteria purchases, but did not prevent weight gain.
For the study, researchers recruited workers from September 2016 to February 2018, and participants were in an intervention or control group.
The intervention group received two emails per week over a 12-month period that included comments on their previous cafeteria purchases and offered personalized health and lifestyle advice, mentionned General mass. Participants in the intervention group also received monthly letters that provided comparisons of their purchases with the purchases of their peers, as well as financial incentives for healthier purchases, the hospital said. Control participants received monthly letters containing general information about a healthy lifestyle.
Each person was in an active phase of the study for one year and was followed for another year after that, meaning that a person recruited in February 2018 would have completed follow-up in January 2020. Data was analyzed from May to September of last year. .
After reviewing the data, the researchers said they found that participants in the intervention group increased their cafeteria purchases of healthy foods more than participants in the control group. Those who received automated emails and letters with personalized comments also bought fewer calories per day. These differences remained constant during the intervention year, as well as during the follow-up year. However, the researchers found no difference between groups in weight change at the end of either 12-month period.
“Few previous workplace studies have been able to make lasting changes in employee dietary choices,” lead author Anne Thorndike, MD, researcher in the division of general internal medicine at Mass General and associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. , said in a Press release. “This study provides evidence that food purchase data can be harnessed to provide large-scale health promotion interventions.”
Read the full study here.