This proposal is in response to RFA-AG-10-008, Healthy Aging through Behavioral Economic Analyses of Situations (R01). This proposal calls for exploration by behavioral economists and clinicians to develop and test default options to promote healthier behaviors. This project will examine the extent to which asymmetric paternalism can motivate older adults to purchase foods of higher nutritional value. Specifically, we will evaluate the effects of a new nutritional scoring program (NuValTM) that soon will be deployed in eastern Iowa by Hy-VeeTM, one of the largest retail grocery store chains in the Midwest, on the general purchase behaviors of a sample of area older adults. Additionally, we will examine changes in overall sales volume of items by nutritional score that could be attributed to the intervention as a means of validating and comparing the behavior changes we find in the older adult population to the general populace for this area. In theory the scoring system should help consumers overcome a status quo bias of defaulting to purchasing products with which they have experience, or which they mistakenly believe to be healthful, and set a new default, namely, relying on a NuValTM score to guide purchasing. A two-pronged approach will capture the NuValTM nutritional scoring system effect: 1) perform prospective data collection to examine pre and post- NuValTM intervention shopping behavior of a group of eastern Iowans age 50 and over, who are volunteer research subjects in the University of Iowa's STAR Registry, to obtain information on the NuValTM intervention's effect on food purchasing behavior of older consumers;2) measure the extent to which the introduction of NuValTM scoring affects the shopping behavior of the entire local population through the use of interrupted time series analysis of sales volumes of a variety of products with varying NuValTM scores.
The way in which Americans select food is closely related to our obesity epidemic and other related chronic diseases in older adults. A novel scoring system (NuVal) provides a means of allowing consumers to identify the nutritional quality of a food with a single number. This nutritional system has the potential to provide important public health messages that affect the way older adults eat.