UC, Kroger form research collaboration to improve health outcomes

The University of Cincinnati, UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s and Kroger have partnered to help study how to make health care more accessible to consumers in a first-of-its kind clinical trial designed to improve health outcomes through retail-based dietary interventions.

The Supermarket and Web-based Intervention Targeting Nutrition (SuperWIN) study is a partnership to improve the quality of dietary intake. Results of the study showed improved adherence to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet.

The study population was 247 UC Health patients with at least one cardiovascular risk factor: obesity, hypertension and/or hypercholesterolemia. All study members were shoppers at a Kroger study store with no previous experience with online shopping.

“SuperWIN is probably the most scientifically rigorous study of a comprehensive health care intervention ever conducted with the retail industry,” says Dylan Steen, MD, of the Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease at the UC College of Medicine. “In terms of purchasing data, retailers have been collecting these data for decades. These data are now progressively being linked to nutrition information and thus could be used by dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, and physicians to provide the best, individualized guidance to patients.”

Online shopping, grocery delivery and use of nutrition and health care applications are rapidly rising globally. Steen says there are many reasons why these tools could improve both purchase and dietary quality.

“SuperWIN provides evidence of the efficacy of incorporating online training and tools to improve dietary quality,” he says. “Scientific organizations have been calling for research to determine whether these technologies can help us address some of the major public health barriers around improving nutrition, both in high and low income communities. For some patients with physical limitations preventing travel to a grocery store, these services will likely make it easier for them to follow the very specific dietary recommendations that are essential to managing their chronic conditions and improving their quality of life.”

Couch says she’s confident the SuperWIN results can make a true impact on the nation’s health because it is all about educating consumers and providing them with the necessary skills to make healthy food choices.

“They need to know how to select healthful products by learning how to read labels and what to look for when comparing products,” she said. “They need to understand how to plan their meals because meal planning is so essential to helping people stick to a plan. Also, once they get the food home, they need to know how to prepare that food to be most healthful. All the elements of food literacy were woven into the intervention design and that relates to giving people the knowledge and skills about the food they eat to enable them to comply with a healthy dietary pattern like DASH.”

Steen says the results of SuperWIN have laid the foundation for new era of research between independent academic researchers and retailers.

“Dietary interventions could be studied across larger populations. Tele-nutrition visits could be added to in-person visits. There are many possibilities,” he says. “It is important to note that dietary education visits could be combined with retail-based medication-focused visits or monitoring visits. These interventions, individually or together, could be tailored to almost any chronic disease.”

“A transition to value-based care is urgently needed,” says Steen. “Retail-based interventions, like those studied in SuperWIN, can be integrated into clinical care provided by primary care clinicians and specialists to support this transition. We already know that consumers want high-quality with greater convenience, access and lower costs. If you ask yourself how we, as a society, are going to extend the reach of health care beyond hospitals and traditional medical settings, it becomes readily apparent that this is the most promising path forward.”

Lead photo of Sarah Limbert, left, Kroger dietitian and UC graduate and Sarah Couch, PhD. Photo/provided

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