Online Program

Adopting Healthy Habits: Nutrition educators expand roles to include policy, systems, and environmental change

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tisa Hill, MPH, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Jamie Dollahite, PhD, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Program in Community Nutrition, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
introduction: Supporting policy, systems and environmental change (PSE) is increasingly recognized as an essential component of nutrition education in communities. Through community-based participatory research, Adopting Healthy Habits (AHH), leveraged existing Cooperative Extension staff to address this challenge. Study objectives included 1) identifying programmatic supports for professional and paraprofessional nutrition educators to expand beyond direct education and 2) documenting changes that support healthy choices in environments where children and adults live, learn, work, and play.

methods: In seven diverse counties across New York, staff (n=16) focused strategies (staff development, worksite wellness programs, and engagement in local coalitions) to increase healthful food and activity behaviors underpinned by local policy and systems changes. Output and outcome data were collected through yearly work plans, periodic focus groups and interviews with staff and partners, community readiness and other needs assessments, and monthly documentation of activities.

results: With dedicated time, ongoing technical assistance, and skill development, nutrition educators can become agents of PSE changes. Results included best practices for adoption of healthy activities and the importance of supporting guidelines and policies in primary sectors (schools, worksites, and community organizations). Data analysis elucidated needs regarding evaluation tools, resources to support dedicated time for PSEs, and training relevant to multiple community roles undertaken by professional and paraprofessional staff.

discussion: AHH outcomes illuminate opportunities within current partnerships to engage in and implement PSEs.  Site-specific case studies detail contextual variation and serve as roadmaps for PSE initiation.  Challenges remain and additional research is needed to develop sensitive and effective evaluation tools.

Learning Areas:

Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Identify supports nutrition educators need to engage in policy, systems and environmental changes. Describe examples of policy, systems and environmental changes that respond to local opportunities and challenges. Discuss additional research needs including the development of appropriate evaluations of environmental changes work undertaken by both professional and paraprofessional staff

Keyword(s): Nutrition, Community-Based Research (CBPR)

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the coordinator of the Adopting Healthy Habits research and extension program in New York state.
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.