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Leveraging Technology to Deliver Tailored SNAP-Ed Messages

Oct 31, 2018

UCONN School and Family SNAP-Ed collaborated with the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford for this project. This project supports healthy behaviors in high-need children receiving healthcare in the urban Pediatric Emergency Department (PED). When they visit, PED, children and families enjoy a fun online survey about dietary behaviors. Based on their responses, the family receives unique diet and physical activity messages. Many children who receive healthcare in the PED are from income-disadvantaged families. They show high risks of obesity and other conditions. Taking the survey encourages parents and children to think about their behaviors and how to improve their children's health. The tailored messages move them toward behavior change.

tailored messages

Online Survey Development

Research informed the construction of this online survey with child-friendly, tailored messages. Children and parents each (n=925 dyads) completed a paper/pencil Pediatric-Adapted Liking Survey (PALS). PALS asks about liking/disliking of foods, beverages, and physical and sedentary activities. From published research, PALS is a valid/reliable screener of what people usually eat and diet healthfulness. PALS responses can prompt messages to specific behaviors. Examples of behaviors include high sugary beverage preference or low vegetable preference. Educators receive a score of diet healthfulness. 

Parent Use of Online Survey

The PALS and health questions are online so that children and parents receive immediate tailored feedback. The Health questions regarded dental health, body image, and food security. From 500+ responses, >90% agree with ease of use and that the survey was fun. Parents reported high satisfaction with the online survey. Completing the survey made them think about what they eat and do.

Separate interventions helped us develop child-friendly messages (examples below). These messages were developed during SNAP-Ed school-based lessons with 300+ urban middle-schoolers. These messages support behavior change within the social cognitive theory.  

Pilot Testing

Pilot testing results: 80-85% of 138 children and parents reported: 

  • They learned something new from the messages 
  • They want to receive future messages

Participating children and families also receive a tailored reinforcing handout with strategies to support healthy behavior change. Families receive a culturally-sensitive and evidence-based “My Weight Ruler” handout. It is based on the measured height and weight of the child. The handout includes the child’s BMI category and nutrition education about how to maintain energy balance. An evaluation of this intervention is ongoing. The evaluation will measure changes in intentions, attitudes and dietary behaviors at home.   


This article was submitted by UCONN School and Family SNAP-Ed, a SNAP-Ed Agency. Questions about the program can be directed to Dr. Valerie Duffy or Dr. Sharon Smith.