Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Studies show that most Americans know what to do to reduce their risk (i.e., be active, make healthy food choices, consume less sodium), but struggle with determining how to implement those changes into their busy lifestyles. Recognizing the need for a resource that helps with the ‘how’ and one that also provides guidance on creating heart-healthy, family-friendly meal plans, particularly related to managing sodium intake—the Million Hearts® initiative developed a Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Resource Center in partnership with EatingWell.
Launched in June 2014, all the recipes featured in the Resource Center include nutritional facts. In addition, search and filter options help users quickly find the right meal for themselves and their family based on prep time, cuisine, course, number of servings, and specific health considerations. To further help users meet their unique nutritional goals, available meal plans are flexible, easy to use, convenient, and customizable to their dietary needs.
Since launching the Resource Center, Million Hearts® has highly promoted it, securing coverage in the Boston Globe and MedPage Today, among other top-tier media outlets, reaching millions of consumers. In addition, the initiative consistently pushes out content across its social media platforms, partner e-Newsletter, and other consumer-facing CDC promotional materials. Million Hearts®has also promoted the Resource Center through its digital influencer outreach, gaining coverage on such blogs as Fooducate, MOMables, and Fooducate.
Evaluation Methods and Results: Million Hearts® captures digital metrics to assess general traffic to the Resource Center as well as the tool’s reach and engagement with the public. Since its launch, over 40,000 unique visitors have visited the site, resulting in nearly 200,000 page views. On average, users spend 2.5 minutes on the site, and mostly engage with the Recipes, Meal Plans, and Articles pages. Based on this data, Million Hearts®can glean that visitors spend the most time engaging with tools that allow them to download tailored meal plans and learn how to lose weight healthfully and learn the patterns of a heart-healthy diet.
Conclusions: CDC has identified key gaps in empowering individuals to implement healthy behaviors and is working to fill those gaps through the data and lessons learned from the Resource Center usage information.
Implications for research and/or practice: As consumer demand for direct engagement with government groups and other large organizations continues to grow, public health groups must respond by determining the best strategies to engage with consumers in the digital landscape. Interactive online tools, such as the Million Hearts® Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center, that are designed with user information needs and preferences at the forefront and also make public health science and data understandable and easy to use, can be useful in fostering and maintaining consumer engagement.