Behavior Technology Laboratory: Health, Performance & Resilience
The Behavior Technology Laboratory conducts research on behavioral approaches to assess and prevent negative health outcomes by improving health behaviors, physical and mental performance, and resilience. This research includes the development and testing of community-based, clinic-based, and mobile interventions for health behavior change, targeting nutrition, fitness, sleep, weight, body image, and positive mental coping.
About this Lab
With the dawn of new e-health technologies and population health research models to reach populations who don’t have access to or who are unable to participate in clinical programs and/or specialized health care, the Behavior Technology Lab’s work over the years has been focused on developing and testing community-based programs and technology-based health tools in order to disseminate prevention and treatment efforts to large populations including chronic disease, e.g. eating disorders, diabetes, and obesity, and high performance populations including US Army Soldiers and NCAA athletes.
Highlighted work includes:
Military Health, Readiness, Performance, & Resilience
Soldiers and military families are not immune to the struggles of health, performance, and resilience. As a part of the Military Health, Readiness, Performance, and Resilience projects, the Healthy Eating, Activity, and Lifestyle Training Headquarters (H.E.A.L.T.H.)© program was developed at Pennington Biomedical and represents an ongoing, nearly 20-year collaborative effort between Pennington Biomedical and the Department of Defense. The Army H.E.A.L.T.H.© program is designed to aid Soldiers in maintaining healthy weight status, fitness standards, combat readiness, and performance. H.E.A.L.T.H.© also includes programming to aid Soldiers’ family members in reaching their overall health and fitness goals. H.E.A.L.T.H.© incorporates cutting-edge interactive technology in a Smartphone application for Soldiers and their family members to use wherever they are in the world.
H.E.A.L.T.H.© has been deployed and tested in several military populations, including Soldiers in Fort Bragg, NC, the New England Reserves, and the Louisiana Army National Guard. To date, approximately 15,000 individuals have participated in the H.E.A.L.T.H.© program. This work is currently being expanded with projects related to mental health, performance, and psychological resilience in Army Soldiers.
Athlete Health, Performance, & Resilience
Given the cost of treating mental health disorders and the substantial morbidity and mortality associated with these disorders, the prevention of eating disorders (ED) has considerable public health significance. Research supports the use of programs targeting small behavior modifications in the prevention of ED onset and in reducing ED and obesity risk factors. These risk factors are prevalent in female athletes. ED is especially dangerous in female athletes because it increases risk for Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S; i.e., low energy availability/disordered eating, menstrual disorders, and decreased bone mineral density/osteoporosis) and subsequent injury. This work includes a federally funded (NIH-R01) controlled trial to test the effectiveness of the Female Athlete Body (FAB) program among 500 collegiate female athletes across four university sites.
This research program has recently been expanded with two newly funded trials that will study physical and psychological resilience in female athletes. These two new trials have been funded by the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance, which couples deep scientific inquiry with athletics and sports medicine in a tight cycle of innovation. Innovation hubs at Boston Children’s Hospital, the Salk Institute, University of Kansas, the University of Oregon, Stanford University, and UC San Diego translate the Alliance’s scientific discoveries into practice to help improve the training, care, and performance of athletes. The Innovation Hub at Boston Children’s Hospital focuses on conducting female-specific translational research pertaining to the physiological, mental and sociological well-being of female athletes and innovating ways to improve the health of girls and women of all abilities through athletic participation and performance. The first of these two trials will investigate the mental health and resilience of 500 female athletes across the USA with Harvard, Boston Children’s, and Trinity University as collaborative partners. The second of the two will investigate mental and physical resilience in 50 LSU female athletes in a collaboration with LSU Kinesiology and LSU Athletics.
Also part of this effort is a technology-based program that aims to influence during and post-sport mental health and provide intervention programming to aid in athletes’ adjustment into the world after college/elite athletics. S.C.O.R.E. (Sport Carried Onward for Resilience & Enrichment) is a program developed to assist athletes both in and out of sport, helping them navigate the transition between the two. Athletes are not immune to mental and behavioral health struggles. There is a well-identified gap in the science targeting athlete performance and athlete well-being. Stigma and program culture can prevent athletes from seeking mental health help. The S.C.O.R.E. program aims to be a strategy to enhance athlete health, performance and resilience, not only while in sport, but over the long-term. The first pilot effort for this program has been funded by the Pennington Family Foundation.
Science-Based Apps for all: Z!G- Small Steps Lead to Big Change
Z!G™, an evidence-based smartphone app that takes a “whole health” approach, incorporating physical and mental health in one app, will roll out to the public in fall 2022 and will include the latest artificial intelligence technology to personalize health and training plans and guidance for users. This new app aims to help users create habits that optimize mental wellness and physical health by building skills for long-term well-being and resilience. A one-stop shop to managing sleep, nutrition, fitness plans, stress management, mood, relaxation, and mindfulness, Z!G™ aims to be the only app needed to manage daily habits and well-being.
Children’s Health & Well-Being
Science tells us that if we don't appreciate our bodies, we don't treat our bodies well. How we view our bodies is a key component of successful health behaviors and significantly affects our quality of life. A newly developed workshop intervention series teaches children and adults to keep their bodies healthy through nutrition, fitness, sleep, and body appreciation. The experiences gained through these workshops reframe the dialogue between kids and adults about healthy bodies while empowering kids to establish positive behaviors and improve their health for the long-term. This workshop series, soon to be accompanied by a smartphone app, started as a partnership with the Knock Knock Children’s Museum and Mayor Broome’s Healthy Baton Rouge Initiative. The workshop is currently being deployed as part of various initiatives in Baton Rouge.
The Behavior Technology Lab is also leading the mobile technology program development of the new Greaux Healthy program, a new prevention and treatment initiative aimed at combatting pediatric health problems in Louisiana by leveraging state funding to attract outside grants and create an integrated network of evidence–based obesity treatment and prevention programs for people twenty-five and younger. Ultimately, tools derived from this initiative may be more broadly disseminated.
Diabetes Model Clinic
Louisiana is one of the states that suffers from the highest rates of obesity, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. Over the past 35 years, Pennington Biomedical has served as a global leader in obesity and diabetes prevention and treatment and has participated in every landmark trial targeting these diseases. It is this science that we aim to translate into practical applications to help the citizens of Louisiana. For the first time, Pennington Biomedical Research Center has expanded its mission beyond science to clinical treatment and has opened its doors to the community to treat obesity and reverse type 2 diabetes. This treatment mission is based on the last three decades of research, translating the best science into a community practice model. Pennington Biomedical has launched an obesity and type 2 diabetes program for our Louisiana Medicaid recipients, working in collaboration with patients’ existing primary care physicians to make treatment a success. This model clinic is a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health and is the first of its kind in offering a comprehensive program combining evidence-based medical management, intensive behavioral intervention, and novel technology to reverse the negative effects of diabetes that affect so many in Louisiana. Ultimately, the clinic model may be available for dissemination to clinics and healthcare settings throughout the country.
For more information on the Pennington Diabetes Clinic, visit our clinic site: https://www.penningtondiabetesclinic.com/
For more information, visit our laboratory website: http://labs.pbrc.edu/btl