Nudging Students Towards Healthier Food Choices: An Editorial by UPenn PRC Director Kevin Volpp

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In an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics.http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2210435&resultClick=3 , UPenn PRC Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, and Mitesh Patel, MD, MBA, MS examine the value of a behavioral economics approach to research addressing the need to improve nutrition for and lower obesity in children in the U.S.

Behavioral economics is a field that recognizes that individuals do not always behave rationally when making decisions. When choosing what to eat, children are particularly influenced by the environment in which food is presented. Choice architecture is the application of behavioral economic principles to the design of environments in which decisions are made. While there is a significant opportunity to nudge students toward healthier food choices, there is a lack of rigorous evaluation of such interventions in real-world settings.

Despite numerous efforts to improve the food consumption of America’s youth, rates of obesity among school-aged children have not changed over the past decade. Strategies that are most likely to encourage healthier food choices are those that reflect individuals’ rational preferences (e.g., making food taste better) and apply insights from behavioral economics to better design choice architecture