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University of Illinois professor develops tool that helps dietitians deliver info clients need and can understand
Date:7/31/2012

URBANA - If you've consulted with a nutrition educator about how best to lose weight or manage your diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, you may not have learned as much as you could have, said a University of Illinois professor of nutrition extension.

"Only 80 percent of the dietitians we surveyed did any pre-assessment of the client's nutrition literacy, which makes it difficult for educators to target their counseling so clients can understand and act on the information they are given," said Karen Chapman-Novakofski, also a registered dietitian.

Chapman-Novakofski's recent doctoral student Heather Gibbs has developed an algorithm that dietitians can use to determine precisely what knowledge and skills are required for a particular client.

"Some clients need to know how to manage their intake of macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Some need to learn about portion sizes, and others have to be able to read labels. Still other clients must be able to categorize foods into groups. For each of these skills, we provide questions and exercises that assess the client's knowledge. Then dietitians will be able to better focus on what their clients need to know," she said.

Chapman-Novakofski said doctors and dietitians often don't initiate conversations that could help patients successfully manage their conditions. They may lack time or they may assume a background level of understanding that the client does not have.

"During a routine physical, your doctor may tell you that your blood pressure is high and that you need to watch your salt intake. But what does that mean to you?" she asked. "A better-case scenario would be for the doctor to ask if you can name some foods that are high in sodium. If you can't, then she knows you need to have a conversation about how to identify higher-sodium foods."

The doctor might further advise that simply avoiding added table salt is not very effective
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Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
p-pickle@illinois.edu
217-244-2827
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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