Archive (2016–2006)

Studying the Place of Technology to Lower Financial Barriers for Dietary Change

Journal: Methods of Information in Medicine
Subtitle: A journal stressing, for more than 50 years, the methodology and scientific fundamentals of organizing, representing and analyzing data, information and knowledge in biomedicine and health care
ISSN: 0026-1270

Special Topic: Pervasive Healthcare
Guest Editors: B. Arnrich, O. Mayora, J. Bardram

Issue: 2010 (Vol. 49): Issue 1 2010
Pages: 74-80

Studying the Place of Technology to Lower Financial Barriers for Dietary Change

K. A. Siek (1), J. Maitland (2)

(1) Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA; (2) National Research Council of Canada Institute for Information Technology, Fredericton, NB, Canada


informatics, health behavior, Medically underserved area, poverty


Background: Current dietary self-monitoring systems assume users have access to healthy foods and resources to effectively implement and monitor dietary behavioral change. Objectives: The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand the specific financial-related barriers that caregivers of low socioeconomic status encounter when attempting to make dietary behavior change. Methods: In this qualitative study, we conducted a focus group and 14 in-person interviews with the primary caregivers of low socioeconomic families. Participants were recruited from a community considered to be ‘at risk’ through high levels of exposure to multiple modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. All participants were English-speaking caregivers, who had children under eight years old. The families lived in an urban, public housing community. The focus group and interviews were transcribed and coded during data analysis sessions, then analyzed for emergent themes. Results: We abstracted three main themes from the data. The caregivers of 17 families: 1) feared trying healthier food alternatives because of possibly wasting the food; 2) planned meals only when they had enough time, space, and financial security; and 3) defined produce as luxury items and often could only afford staple food items, such as meat and grains. Conclusion: We challenge the community to design technological interventions to lower the financial barriers presented with existing information and communication technology available to low socioeconomic populations. In addition, we encourage interventions to foster a community’s social capital to decrease feelings of isolation and increase opportunities for cooperation.

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