Purpose: Taking advantage of a natural experiment made possible by the placement of health-promoting vending machines (HPVMs), we evaluated the impact of the intervention on consumers' attitudes toward and practices with vending machines in a pediatric hospital.
Methods: Vending machines offering healthy snacks, meals, and beverages were developed to replace four vending machines offering the usual high-energy, low-nutrition fare. A pre- and post-intervention evaluation design was used; data were collected through exit surveys and six-week follow-up telephone surveys among potential vending machine users before (n=293) and after (n=226) placement of HPVMs. Chi-2 statistics were used to compare pre- and post-intervention participants' responses.
Results: More than 90% of pre- and post-intervention participants were satisfied with their purchase. Post-intervention participants were more likely to state that nutritional content and appropriateness of portion size were elements that influenced their purchase. Overall, post-intervention participants were more likely than pre-intervention participants to perceive as healthy the options offered by the hospital vending machines. Thirty-three percent of post-intervention participants recalled two or more sources of information integrated in the HPVM concept. No differences were found between pre- and post-intervention participants' readiness to adopt healthy diets.
Conclusions: While the HPVM project had challenges as well as strengths, vending machines offering healthy snacks are feasible in hospital settings.