202981 Nutrition literacy among Food Stamp eligible adults: Implications for nutrition label, MyPyramid, and food advertising policies

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stephanie Grutzmacher, PhD , Department of Family Studies, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Low health and nutrition literacy may function as serious barriers to positive behavior change among underserved, at-risk populations. Many educators, researchers, and policymakers presume health literacy in their design and implementation of health education and intervention programs, yet widespread challenges with nutrition literacy undermine large educational efforts like MyPyramid and nutrition labels. Using findings from a study of food stamp eligible adults, this paper will address the policy implications of low health literacy for government nutrition efforts such as MyPyramid, nutrition label policies, and food advertising policies. This study uses a non-representative sample of Food Stamp-eligible adults (n = 330) to identify strengths and challenges in understanding and utilizing health and nutrition information. Using in-depth interviewing, participants discuss interpretations of MyPyramid illustrations, complete basic calculations using nutrition label data, and share the extent to which their nutrition knowledge is sourced from food advertising. Content analyses reveal many themes in messages garnered from MyPyramid illustrations, addressing the types and quantities of foods perceived by participants to be recommended. Quantitative analyses of the Newest Vital Sign reveal patterns in correct and incorrect answers that may identify areas of improvement in nutrition label design. Finally, participants reveal perceptions and knowledge gleaned from advertising that simplifies or misrepresents accepted nutrition information and recommendations. These findings provide evidence of the need to improve design, regulation, and policies regarding government nutrition promotion and labeling efforts and food advertising parameters.

Learning Objectives:
Identify common misinterpretations of MyPyramid’s nutrition and health messages. Describe the prominent advertising messages that influence nutrition knowledge and attitudes. Analyze patterns of correct and incorrect responses to the Newest Vital Sign tasks of interpreting basic nutrition label data. Evaluate the potential of policies to improve nutrition literacy among low-income and other vulnerable populations.

Keywords: Health Literacy, Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the PI on a nutrition literacy study of Food Stamp eligible adults and have experience in needs assessment and program evaluation with the Maryland Food Stamp Nutrition Education program.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.