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Reducing Sugary Drinks Among Young, School-Age Children: Formative Assessment of Print Materials for Parents
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Formative research (aka formative assessment) has been used previously as a means to strengthen social marketing campaigns, public health interventions and health education materials. The purpose of this study was to conduct a formative assessment of print materials for parents of young school-age children on the topic of sugar-sweetened beverages. The materials consisted of four unique brochures planned for use in a direct mail intervention to households enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The overall goal of the intervention was to reduce children's intake of sugar-sweetened beverages by encouraging parents to limit their availability in the household. This study employed two formative assessment approaches including a survey of content experts and interviews with members of the target audience. Regarding the former, seven registered dietitians with experience in community-based nutrition programs that serve members of the target audience reviewed the print materials and completed a survey. The survey included questions from the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM) instrument and additional questions to address the instructional objectives and theoretical components of the Social Cognitive Theory. Concurrently, members of the target audience (n=28) were also asked to review the print materials and to participate in a brief interview. The interview questions addressed the comprehension and meaning, relevance, and appeal of the educational materials. The findings from this formative assessment provided new information regarding select characteristics of materials to be used in the direct mail intervention. This combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches was successful in identifying a number of potential ways to improve the materials including those related to content and design. Ultimately, the results of this formative assessment may help to lower children's intake of sugar-sweetened beverages by increasing the effectiveness of the direct-mail intervention.