Nudge challenge assignment - Tackling the obesity challenge
TACKLING THE OBESITY CHALLENGE – J Gulli
The background and Context
The aim of the nudge will be to tackle the growing obesity problem by increasing the consumption of healthy foods at the school. This will
easily be measurable from the school canteen’s stocks.
The school is St James’ school, a co-educational secondary school in Geelong in the state of Victoria in Australia.
Desired Behaviour Change
The change will be that students will increase their intake of healthy food items (fruits, healthy snacks and water) and reduce their intake
of processed foods (chips, lollies, chocolates and fizzy drinks) with little or no nutritional value which are high in sugar and salt in the hope
that a healthy food regime while a student creates a routine that helps reduce the probability of obesity in later life.
The Decision Making Process and Analysis
TACKLING THE OBESITY CHALLENGE
When dealing with secondary school students there are a number of behaviours that sway them. Education is needed to show students
that good food makes you feel better both short and long term. (This is an example of a cognitive de-bias).
The use of mental accounting to allocate some of their spending money to healthy food. The Healthy food reward card is a tool that is used
to assist with the mental accounting and is a reward system for doing the right thing which will make the process automatic over time.
There is also a loss aversion strategy built into the card that promotes the regular buying of healthy food to get the free piece on the fifth
Peer pressure (Social Proofing and replenishing will-power) , how we look is a characteristic that sways everyone especially students. We
are all mindful of how we look and what we need to do to look and feel better. The placing of mirrors around the canteen to make
students more mindful of who they are buying the food for and to show them how they currently look. This will also assist with self-control
and will power to go towards and select from the healthy food section.
Providing a default, “healthy food/fruit of the day”, will assist students struggling to make a choice or dealing with choice overload .
The nudge in this case will be nudge with economic incentive and a default to help students make decisions more easily.
The nudge is simple and uses mirrors (these could be second hand from opportunity shops or from the children themselves). The mirrors
need to be placed around the food items being chosen The aim is to see a reflection of themselves as they are selecting the food item
making them mindful of how the look now, how they want to look and which food item is likely to make them achieve that. The mirrors will
provide them with the will power at the decision point to help them make the correct selection choice.
The Economic incentive: Automatic enrolment – all students get a healthy food card to begin. The healthy food card works like a regular
coffee buyer card. Buy 4 pieces get 5th free. Has a built –in loss aversion strategy as 4 healthy food items need to be bought within the
week to be able to obtain the free healthy food item. The regular buying also is to help to make the
process routine. Also has a price reframing built-in. For example, if healthy food item is $1 each,
5 pieces actually cost you $4 with the card or 80 cents each. Save 20%.
The default “healthy food of the day” can be changed to whatever is seasonal, in excess supply and
cheap and acts as simple choice for students that find it difficult to decide.
The Nudge is feasible and scalable and could be easily replicated to not only work in school cafeterias
but also in food courts and grocery shops.
TACKLING THE OBESITY CHALLENGE
The experiment would need to be a before-after experiment. A 25 day (5 week window) to measure the healthy food consumption without
the intervention. This first 5 week window will be treated as a control. Expectation would be that more unhealthy food items are
purchased in the control. The following 25 days (next 5 week window) to measure healthy food consumption with the intervention in
place. Expectation would be that more healthy food items are purchased in the second 5 week with the intervention in place . This works
well in the standard 10 week school term.
The experiment will be using the same students from the same school and so is a within participant design.
It would also need to be organised with the school that the curriculum during the 10 week window does not talk about healthy eating as
this would taint the experiment.
To be able to measure the consumption the canteen would need to know which foods were sold. After each 5 week period we would need
to categorise food items into healthy and unhealthy foods. This should include drinks: fizzy drinks (unhealthy) versus water (healthy).
The factors we are looking at will be the consumption of healthy food and the consumption of non-healthy food. The levels are with and
without the Mirrors and healthy food card.
The expectation would be that the consumption of healthy food (the outcome variable) increases while the consumption of unhealthy
foods and snacks decreases in the second 5 week period when compared to the first 5 week period.
The additional incentive of a healthy food card provides an economic incentive for doing the right thing and is also a regular buying
incentive to make the process routine. The card is stamped when a healthy food purchase is made. Over time the students would
purchase healthy food with thinking too hard about it. If 4 healthy food purchases are made within a week, a free healthy food item is
The default “healthy food of the day” can be changed to whatever is seasonal, in excess supply and cheap and acts as simple choice for
students that find it difficult to decide.
The data analysis would be a simple comparison of means with a t-test. The expectation would be that the amount of healthy food items
purchased by students increased with the interventions in place. This would lead to students purchasing healthy food items and creating
routines to ensure the healthy diet continues beyond schooling and reduces obesity over time.