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Web-based Application to Enable Healthy Behaviors Through Behavioral Design


Fast-Track proposals will not be accepted.
Number of anticipated awards: 1
Budget (total costs):
Phase I: up to $150,000 for up to 12 months
Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity are key objectives for Healthy People 2020. A 2015 executive order directed federal agencies to apply behavioral insights to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs and the CDC’s 2017 Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities encourage the use of behavioral design strategies to make healthier foods and beverages easier for consumers to choose. However, little guidance exists to help public health professionals (such as public health departments) and private and public sector building operations (such as food service and vending operators) apply behavioral design strategies in order to enable healthier dietary or physical activity behaviors. Tools such as the Sustainable Facilities Tool ( and USDA’s Smarter Lunchroom tool provides

initial guidance but lack the necessary breadth and detail in operationalizing behavioral design approaches toward dietary or physical activity practices. Building and design firms recognize that nearly all aspects of their work will influence the occupant’s or user’s experience and behavior, however, they neither have the expertise nor inclination to consider health as a primary outcome. These firms do recognize the value of health and potential return on investment (ROI) to their clients and thus, are willing and interested to incorporate health-enabling design. This can be assisted by the translation of evidence from numerous fields, such as psychology, community design, and public health, into guidance on how our experience and behaviors are affected by our environment. Although this remains an unmet ideal, the field can be moved forward via tools that translate and operationalize evidence-basedstrategies that alter the human experience with the built environment for the advancement of public health.
This SBIR contract seeks to build a web-based platform that assists the architecture and design community to incorporate behavioral design strategies in the built environment to enable healthy behaviors. The proposed tool will also allow users to provide direct feedback into the platform, in order to add to the evidence-base on behavioral design’s practical applications, and to create best practices through platform modification.
Ultimately, the goal is for health to be a normative consideration and outcome in the design and construction of the places we live, work, and play. This platform will:
Assist and enhance changes within the food environment, making healthier choices easier or more likely for consumers
Support environmental changes that enable and encourage safe and convenient opportunities for physical activity at the building, neighborhood and community level
Project Goals
Translate concepts and aspects introduced in the Health, Behavioral Design, and Built Environment White Paper, published in March 2017 by the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) ( to operationalize behavioral design strategies to enable healthy behaviors. Translation of concepts and aspects will initially take the form of checklists and toolkits for each setting (i.e., worksites, assisted-living facilities) and venue (i.e., vending machines, cafeterias).
Design and build a web-based tool that demonstrates how each concept/aspect of the environment and resulting human experience can be modified to enable healthier behaviors (i.e., dietary choices, physical activity, and social interaction/cohesiveness).
Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables
Phase 1 (0-12 mos)
Collaborate with an innovative design/architectural firm that can use architectural modelling, design thinking, and industry insights to layout a basic web-platform assisting those in the building and design community to understand the potential health impacts of their work. The contract partner will need expertise in behavioral science and how space, time, material, and information can influence behavior.
Develop checklists and guide (i.e., toolkits) for application for each setting and venue, with subject matter expert input (i.e., nutrition and PA scientists).
Create a framework to guide design choices by how they influence behaviors or actions with health outcomes.
For Successful Phase I Awardees ONLY (Expected Phase II Deliverables)
Design a user-interface that allows architects, designers, and public health professionals to construct, understand, and interact with the specified environment (e.g., setting and venue).
Apply and operationalize behavioral design aspects/concepts, as described for example in the White Paper Figure 4, to the platform.
Test and make modifications to the web-based tool as necessary.
Allow users to share success stories and practice-based evidence, in order to advance and improve the evolving application. This can be accomplished via web based collaborative methods (sharing).

Improvement of food and physical activity environments can lead to many positive long-term health, social, and economic outcomes, including:
 reductions in chronic disease and early death
 increased productivity
 decreased absenteeism
 reduced healthcare costs
 improvements in mental health and cognition
 prevention of falls
 reduction of health inequities
 reduced stress
 improved sleep
 increased life satisfaction
Commercialization Potential
There are numerous methods to commercialize these concepts, particularly the web-based tool emerging from Phase a successful Phase I & II. For example, fee-based access by design and architecture firms can be part of the pay-to-play version of this interface and can enable advanced features such as saving projects, networking within business or between businesses and clientele, or interfacing with other design software. However, the most simple income generating method for this project is to connect the various aspects of this work with the materials providers that enable it to work and allow them to advertise. For example, building and design materials and machinery of all kinds and the companies that specialize in their installation [e.g., paint, glass, flooring, lighting systems, HVAC systems, etc] can use this tool to target products to specific projects and needs. Design, building, and planning firms will all be interested in advertising their services on such a website.

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