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New Research study aims to determine whether an app can help people increase fruit and vegetable purchases

Imagine you’re at the grocery store or ordering online and you’re pretty much done with your shopping. You look through the items in various categories on your list one more time before heading to the checkout. Milk and dairy products? Check. Meat and seafood? Check. Snacks? Check. Bread? Check. Fruits and vegetables? Wait a minute … you look at your phone and see a personalized message from an app about your health and how eating more fruits and vegetables will make a difference. You think to yourself, “Hey, that’s a good reminder right when I need it. I think I’ll put a few more in my cart.”

Just like you might be tempted to pick up your favorite candy bar or magazine while waiting in the checkout line, behavioral science experts know that decisions at the grocery store can be influenced. That’s why, through a new “Food is Medicine” study being conducted in New Ulm, researchers want to see if education and information provided through the use of an individualized and interactive app called Benovate® will change peoples’ buying behavior at the grocery store. The hope is that it will lead people to make healthier choices, such as purchasing more fruits and vegetables, which can help them improve various health measurements, such as blood pressure and cholesterol and A1C levels.

The study is being conducted by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation®, which is partnering with New Ulm Medical Center, Hy-Vee in New Ulm and Benovate to determine if using the app impacts health outcomes over the course of six months for people who have prediabetes, diabetes or high blood pressure. Adults who register to participate in the study will receive free use of the Benovate well-being app for up to six months, which not only provides messaging to help you achieve your health goals, but also growth, finances and relationships if desired. When using the app, you can earn points that you can use toward discount coupons for fruits and vegetables redeemable at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.

“The premise is that knowledge alone doesn’t change peoples’ behavior, but that if people receive support and encouragement at the optimal time, such as when choosing foods at the point-of-purchase, they will be persuaded to buy healthier foods,” said Cindy Winters, a project advisor with the Heart of New Ulm who is helping with the study locally. “It’s similar to how people know they need to exercise for better health, but just having that knowledge often isn’t enough to get them to do it. A lot of people find the additional support and encouragement they need to do it from using a fitness tracking app.”

Here’s more information about how the study will work:

What is Benovate?

Benovate describes itself as the “next generation well-being app.” It’s a fun, interactive app designed to help you reach your well-being goals — for your health, growth, finances and relationships. With the app, you can:

• Complete custom activities

• Earn points for managing your well-being; points redeemable for New Ulm Hy-Vee discount coupons

• Earn points on the go

• Take courses at your own pace to learn about topics of interest

The app generates messages using an algorithm that personalizes lifestyle messages for you in the various areas. The more often you use the app and engage with the content, the more personalized motivational messages you will receive.

Who can participate in the study?

The study aims to enroll individuals in New Ulm who have prediabetes, diabetes or high blood pressure, since eating more fruits and vegetables is especially important to help manage those conditions. However, all adults age 18 or older are welcome to participate.

How do you register for the study?

Starting in Spring 2021, look for posters at New Ulm Medical Center and New Ulm Hy-Vee promoting the study. The posters will direct you to a website where you can download the Benovate app.

You will be asked to agree to consent to participate in the study before you are allowed to download the app.

Once you have downloaded the app, you will create a username and password to get into the app.

How does the app work?

The app provides access to a wealth of educational information and courses on a variety of topics to help you manage your physical, mental, social and financial health. As you complete the courses or answer questions, you can earn points that you can use toward discount coupons for fruits and vegetables redeemable at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.

The app can be used on a home computer or any smart phone for six months after you register. Once the study period ends, you will be notified and you will no longer have access to the app.

What personal information will be shared with the researchers?

Your name, e-mail address and zip code will be shared with the research staff at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF). This information will be matched up with your electronic medical record to identify if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and/or hypertension.

For participants who have prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and/or hypertension: MHIF researchers will compare your lab results for blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting blood glucose and A1C prior to participating in the study (using your most recent labs) and after you finish the six-month study to see if there was any change in your results. There is no need for you to have additional lab work in order to participate in the study.

Individuals who do not have the above conditions: Although you can participate in the study, you will not be included in the study’s analysis.

For more information on the study, please contact Cindy Winters at 507-217-5548.

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