Small Steps to Health and Wealth[TM]: The Total Package

Article excerpt

Small Steps to Health and Wealth[TM] (SSHW) was developed upon a framework of 25 behavior change strategies for improved well-being by Cooperative Extension faculty at Rutgers University. It is believed to be the first long-term program developed to motivate Americans to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances by using the same personal behavior change strategies. SSHW was developed because many Americans have both health and financial "issues." Societal problems that have been widely reported include an increasing incidence of diabetes, overweight, and obesity, low household savings, and high household debt. While two important objectives of Cooperative Extension programs are improving the health/wellness and financial security of participants, these objectives have typically been addressed with separate staff, curricula, and/or outreach methods.

A literature review, while researching the SSHW workbook and trademark application, revealed little previous interdisciplinary programming or research linking behavior changes in health and personal finances. In the academic literature, most research about health and financial linkages is at the macro level (e.g., the cost to society of obesity, diabetes, or smoking), rather than studies of individuals changing their behavior. What was found, however, were parallel campaigns (the Web site developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote healthy lifestyle changes and the Social Security Administration's Save For Your Future effort) headed by federal agencies in the early 2000s to encourage Americans to take small steps to improve their health and increase their wealth.

SSHW Objectives

Following is the "elevator statement" for SSHW: Small Steps to Health and Wealth[TM] encourages participants to make positive behavior changes to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances. The target audience for SSHW and its associated research is adults age 25 to 65. Consumers will access program information by attending a Cooperative Extension class, reading media reports and SSHW marketing materials, or through Internet search engines and links. For those lacking Internet access, Extension personnel and other program providers can assist clientele with online registration and impact reporting. SSHW program objectives are to:

* Integrate Cooperative Extension health and personal finance subject matter into one program

* Provide resources to help Americans simultaneously improve their health and personal finances

* Document improvements in the health and wealth of participants by:

* Monitoring and aggregating progress using online assessment tools

* Researching program impacts and relationships between health and wealth

SSHW Components

Various components of Small Steps to Health and Wealth[TM] were developed between 2004 and 2007. The "total package" of SSHW program components developed by Rutgers faculty and partners includes the following:

* National and State Branding- A national logo was developed for Small Steps to Health and Wealth[TM] that incorporates the current version of the USDA food pyramid, a dollar sign to represent personal finance goals, and two characters that represent diverse audience outreach. State-specific logos are similar in format and include the state name in a circle around the SSHW brand. To further build identity, the national logo was used as the cover of the Small Steps to Health and Wealth[TM] workbook, on the program Web site, and in other places.

* Small Steps to Health and Wealth[TM] Capacity Building Training DVD- A DVD of a two-hour training session for professionals about the SSHW program is available through the University of Arizona.

* Consumer PowerPoint Presentations- Curricula for two, two-hour PowerPoint presentations for consumers (titles: Small Steps to Health and Wealth[TM] and 25 Days to Health and Wealth) are available on CD-ROMs for use by consumer educators. …