Nico Pronk, Ph.D., FACSM, FAWHP, is vice president of Health & Disease Management at HealthPartners health system in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with responsibility for health promotion, disease prevention and disease management programs for the health plan membership. He also is the executive director of the Health Behavior Group, a HealthPartners business unit that provides health promotion, disease prevention and disease self-management products and services to the local, national, and international wellness market. As a senior research investigator at the HealthPartners Research Foundation, he conducts studies in the areas of behavior change, population health improvement and the impact of systems-level change on health-related outcomes. Dr. Pronk has published extensively in the areas of exercise and physical activity, behavior change, economic impact of health risk factors, and the integration of health risk management strategies in population health initiatives. He is currently an Associate Editor for the ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal®, a member of the International Editorial Board of Disease Management & Health Outcomes, and an Editorial Board member of the CDC e-journal Preventing Chronic Disease. He is a current member of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services and the Clinical Obesity Research Panel (CORP) at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Pronk received Fellow status for ACSM and the former Association for Worksite Health Promotion (AWHP).
Diet and exercise are cornerstone topics for worksite health promotion programming. Not only are they two of the main modifiable behaviors that affect health, but they also enjoy a high degree of need and popularity among the populations served. With most citizens across the United States carrying too much weight and not getting optimal levels of physical activity, diet and exercise remain important topics to address.
At the worksite, campaigns designed to address diet and exercise are popular and may be tailored to fit with current issues that resonate with employees. They can be designed to optimize participation and get key messages across during a relatively short period, such as 6 to 8 weeks. That way, the campaign is fun, holds the interest of the participants, and sets up a high likelihood for recurring participation in other campaigns later in the year.
However, core elements of the campaign need to be based on sound information that is complemented with messages from sources other than the worksite health promotion professional. Considering the potential for conflicting messages based on media announcement around diet and exercise, this is no small task. Luckily, the federal government has been a consistent source of sound nutrition and physical activity information, and worksite health promotion practitioners can benefit from these materials and resources. More specifically, the MyPyramid.gov Web site provides a rich source of information and resources to put a great program in place in the worksite setting.
The Food Guide Pyramid is a highly recognized nutritional education tool. It was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992 and was recently updated, redesigned, and reintroduced to the public. In April 2005, the USDA launched an interactive Web site called MyPyramid which presents a new food guidance system supported by educational tools for the general population. In addition, it provides resources for health professionals that explain the philosophy and uses of the food guidance system, and it may be used for purposes of health education and programming for adults and kids. The new Food Guide Pyramid may be found at www.mypyramid.gov (1) and is easily recognized by its MyPyramid.gov multicolored graphic that balances the importance of the food and physical activity messages. The MyPyramid.gov graphic is depicted below.
The MyPyramid.gov Web site provides access to high-quality information on food choices for the public. In fact, it can help an individual choose the foods and amounts that are right for that particular person. Such estimates are based on age, sex, and level of physical activity. The Web site provides information on the food groups represented in the pyramid graphic-grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, milk, meat, and beans-as well as discretionary calories and physical activity. Several other features that support individuals in making informed choices regarding their daily nutrition and physical activity habits include access to dietary guidelines, links to other government Web sites, links to user tips for meeting dietary guidelines and sample menus, and online food and activity logs including the tracking of personal historical data for those who consistently use this tool. Finally, specific resources for children are easily accessible via the "For Kids" section, and a "For Professionals" link provides information specifically for professionals in an effort to support consumer education. The Table provides an outline and brief description of these features.
Worksite Health Promotion Application
Worksite health promotion practitioners can use this online tool in a variety of ways and for purposes of improving dietary habits or enhancing physical activity of workers. The Web site can be used to access materials, set up teaching curricula, design PowerPoint presentations, and provide access for workers to a tool that can provide them with individualized recommendations and tracking tools for healthy nutrition and physical activity.
The MyPyramid.gov Web site also can be used for more targeted audiences, for example, workers with diagnosed diabetes, (2) or those who are identified as having poor nutrition habits via a health risk appraisal. In such cases, the Web site allows the practitioner to gain access to high-quality information and materials either by virtue of it being integrated into the Web site itself or via an abundance of Web links that connect into other quality sites. If not for anything else, this Web site provides practitioners with the comfort that the information accessed is scientifically valid, may be used without concern for intellectual property issues, and is supported by great teaching tools.
The resources presented on the MyPyramid.gov Web site also are available in Spanish. Obviously, this is a valuable resource, as many worksites have a need for materials in the Spanish language.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines and the MyPyramid.gov Web site can be used very effectively as tools for nutrition education and physical activity promotion. This site is supported by the USDA and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion with the intent to improve the health and quality of an average American diet (3). Worksite health promotion practitioners will find this site to be a useful resource and may consider the USDA and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion excellent partners when it comes to meeting healthy nutrition goals for the working population.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). MyPyramid.gov. Available at www.mypyramid.gov
. Accessed September 10, 2006.
2. Clark A., S. Kovarik, M. Voigt, et al. Using the MyPyramid.gov
Web site as a tool for diabetes self-management education. Diabetes Spectrum
3. U.S. Department of Agriculture and Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion: MyPyramid [article online]. Available at www.mypyramid.gov
. Accessed September 10, 2006.