Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bronx Health REACH-"The Super Starions" Healthy Eating Challenge

By Diana Johnson
Bronx Health REACH has worked to improve children’s eating habits through a variety of different programs over the years. This year, REACH partnered with Worldways Strategy & Creative to develop a social marketing campaign to encourage students to eat healthy foods. Social marketing, not to be confused with social media, is a framework that can be used to encourage behavior change by using commercial marketing strategies. In this case, REACH developed a healthy eating campaign to “sell” the idea of eating more fruits and vegetables to children aged 8-10 years old. To start, a focus group was conducted with fourth and fifth grade students to get feedback about the best ways to promote healthy eating messages. The children were presented with three different types of characters: Astronauts; Athletes; and Superheroes. The children picked the superheroes and decided the superheroes should look like them and have normal names like students in their classrooms. They also wanted the superheroes to have fruits and vegetables as logos on their outfits. Worldways went straight to work with the feedback the children gave during the focus group and shortly after the Super Starions were born!
The Super Starions, which include Frankie Fruitman, Victor Veggie, and Wanda Water, are the main characters of the campaign that is currently being implemented at PS 218 Rafael Hernandez Dual Language School in the South Bronx. Third grade students were invited to participate in a healthy eating challenge through a series of nine missions to help the Super Starions fight for good health. Posters featuring the Super Starions were placed around the school to remind students to complete their missions and table tents were placed in the cafeteria to prompt the students to make healthy choices.  In addition, the campaign reinforces the nutrition education the children received in the classroom as part of the Johnson & Johnson Obesity Prevention Program.

 “I thought it was something they don’t see every day,” said school nurse Veronica Echols about the healthy eating campaign. “All the kids were enthusiastic about it.” Third grader Alejandra Romero said she learned to eat more fruits and vegetables and especially enjoyed missions that involved some community exploration.
“My favorite mission was in the community because I got to try a banana at a healthy cart [Green Cart] by the hair salon,” said Alejandra.
The campaign is being evaluated using pre and post surveys which ask about student’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors around healthy eating. REACH was recently awarded a grant from the CIGNA Foundation to expand the social marketing campaign to other schools in fall 2012.

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