Date of Award

Summer 8-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Nutrition

First Advisor

Vijay Ganji, PhD, RD

Second Advisor

Anita Nucci, PhD, RD, LD

Third Advisor

Catherine McCarroll, MPH, RD, LD

Abstract

As increasing numbers of baby boomers enter retirement age, Georgia senior centers will be inundated with more computer-savvy seniors than ever before. Web-based nutrition education is a pragmatic option to complement the traditional classroom nutrition education sometimes hindered by the centers’ limited monetary and personnel resources. This exploratory observational study sought to pilot test a companion to classroom nutrition education, a prototype Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) diet website, for future implementation in Georgia senior centers. Classroom DASH diet lessons were designed and pilot tested on a convenience sample of community dwelling older adults in 6 metropolitan area centers (n=109). Next, the same lessons were incorporated into a senior-friendly DASH diet website specially designed to meet the needs of older adults and pilot tested on a second convenience sample in one center (n=5). Descriptive and analytical statistics were used to compare baseline and post-website blood pressures, body weights, and DASH-related nutrition knowledge. There was a significant difference in the scores for systolic blood pressure at baseline (M=145.60, SD=8.385) and post-website (M=136.40, SD=9.607) conditions; t(4)=3.74, p =.020. Diastolic blood pressure and weight showed no significant change. A survey of DASH-related knowledge, behaviors, and beliefs showed movement towards desired responses on 44% of survey questions after the intervention. An opinion survey collected seniors’ perspectives on their website experience. 100% of participants reported satisfaction with the website and willingness to continue using it. Refinements to the alpha-prototype website are recommended before further testing with a larger pilot study group. Although expanded research is necessary, results from this limited pilot test suggest that web-based nutrition education is a promising method to reinforce classroom lessons teaching dietary and lifestyle management of hypertension in Georgia senior centers. Multi-component nutrition education holds potential to address diversity in cultures, learning preferences, and functional limitations of Georgia seniors.

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