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Nutrition Informatics Blog

Behavioral Change: Beyond Information

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Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of health informatics is our climate of information abundance, multiple “applications” for managing data, and a host of technologies at our fingertips.  Historically, nutrition has always been very data—and information rich.  Along came the internet, then information was suddenly more available to whomever was tenacious enough to search.  Enter “Health 2.0” where there is an enormous opportunity for interaction between individuals online. Will the new “informatics” world in which we live prompt more motivation—even inspiration for behavioral change?!  Early indications are there is great potential.

I am forever intrigued by the subtle combinations of information, people, events, and ideas that nudge us to make significant changes in our behavior.  Take my college son’s bedroom. Yesterday I did my usual “Will you please clean your room, strip the sheets off the bed…” routine.  This morning I entered his room—fully expecting that my request had had only minor impact. Wow.  Room clean, sheets off, books lined on shelf and clothes hung.  Instinctively, I backed out of the room and looked at the outside of the room (an old habit from years of hospital work—verifying I was in the correct room!)  Yes—his room. Hmm…Do not get me wrong—he is a wonderful kid!  College Kid. Home from a messy college dorm. Cleaning rooms isn’t his forte. What caused this major change in behavior?  Perhaps my “information” that the sheets needed to be washed? That had little impact in the past. I looked in the mirror—maybe I look a bit tired and he felt bad? ? Increased maturity?  What was the combination that created a great result?! After all—I want to repeat it!! 

Such is our new opportunities with informatics, the processes, and tools available.  Dietitians have the information and skills, and sharing them with consumers/patients, hope to impact individual and population health.  We have a powerful potential to create behavioral change—by utilizing informatics—and finding the mix and match combinations that work to improve health!

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