UK HealthCare

UK Health Sciences faculty, physician team up to create app for instant nutritional support

Scott Black, M.D. and Leslie Woltenberg, PhD, MS Ed. created One Good Choice, an app to provide instant nutritional support. Photo provided by College of Health Sciences.
Scott Black, M.D., and Leslie Woltenberg, Ph.D., created One Good Choice, an app to provide instant nutritional support. Photo provided by College of Health Sciences.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 5, 2024) Good health and wellness are tightly linked to the food we eat. We make choices of what to serve and eat at every meal. However, making the “right choice” of calorie and nutritional content can be challenging. Although food labels contain information about calorie content, it is difficult for an individual to assess the nutritional value of the same food to make good day-to-day choices.   

When it comes to our long-range health, global lifespan is on the rise because researchers and medical professionals are achieving significant breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases.  

“People are living longer but are living longer with chronic disease. There is a disconnect between quality of life and lifespan,” said Scott Black, M.D., clinical director at University Health Service and a family physician with expertise in sports medicine and exercise physiology. For example, it is worth noting that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of adults fall into a category of obesity-related conditions, like heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Managing nutrition plays a large role in addressing and managing chronic health issues.

Over 30-plus years of medical practice, Black has met with numerous patients to discuss how personal nutrition affects their health. He observed the volume and quality of online resources about nutrition. He struggled to find resources that explained both caloric density and nutrient quality to show his patients.

"The fundamental choices about nutrition are the amount of energy or calories in something (caloric density) and then the actual nutrient quality,” he said.

Wanting to find a solution, Black reached out to former colleague, Leslie Woltenberg, Ph.D., associate professor and director of graduate studies for the Department of Physician Assistant Studies in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Kentucky. Woltenberg specializes in data management systems with an education background. Together they created what would soon become One Good Choice, an app to provide instant nutritional support. 

Recognizing the practicality of an in-your-pocket resource, their focus centered on creating a user-friendly tool accessible to a wide audience. The app’s primary function would be to educate users about the nutrient quality and caloric density of individual food items, encouraging informed swaps for healthier choices. Woltenberg describes One Good Choice as “a decision-making tool for people seeking to shift their lifestyle and habits into a healthier zone,” rather than traditional calorie counters. Most traditional products on the market today passively track a person’s food intake. 

“This app is different because it does not simply record what a person is eating, it educates and makes suggestions for better informed nutrition choices, one choice at a time,” Woltenberg said.  

When it comes to the future of the One Good Choice app, Black and Woltenberg envision it working as an educational tool.

“Multiple industries can find uses from the app," Woltenberg said. "It could help guide discussion and provide a framework for a patient’s education in a health care provider’s office. Insurance carriers or health plans could use the app to help with nutrition education in general or related to specific medical conditions (diabetes, for example). Grocery stores could use it to help consumers make better food choices, or it could be marketed directly to consumers to cut through the confusion and poor nutrition information they receive.”

Their aspiration is for the app to not only foster positive outcomes for users seeking healthier lifestyles, but to also generate cost savings for consumers, health care professionals, and insurance companies alike.

Both Black and Woltenberg participated in the Summer 2023 UAccel program, where they focused on customer discovery to build their idea.

“The positive outcomes can be defined by the consumer," Black said. "The app can support their goals for losing weight, improving health in general, addressing a specific medical condition through nutrition, improving sports performance, or engaging in healthier living and optimized aging. Optimizing nutrition can support all of those goals and the app supports optimizing nutrition.”

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