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Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:176-9.

Nutrition education: linking research, theory, and practice.

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Program in Nutrition, Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Teachers College Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


The increase in obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease worldwide reflects the complex interactions of biology, personal behaviour and environment. Consequently there has been a greater recognition of the importance of nutrition education. An analysis of the evidence from 300+ studies shows that nutrition education is more likely to be effective when it focuses on behaviour/ action (rather than knowledge only) and systematically links theory, research and practice. There are three essential components to nutrition education: 1. A motivational component, where the goal is to increase awareness and enhance motivation by addressing beliefs, attitudes through effective communication strategies. 2. An action component, where the goal is to facilitate people's ability to take action through goal setting and cognitive self-regulation skills. 3. An environmental component, where nutrition educators work with policymakers and others to promote environmental supports for action. Each component needs to be based on appropriate theory and research. The procedure for program design can use the logic model: Inputs are the resources needed as well as the needs analysis process. The outputs are the activities within the three components of nutrition education described above. Here the behavioural focus is selected and theory and research are used to design appropriate educational strategies to achieve the targeted behaviours. The outcomes are the short, medium or long-term impacts of the nutrition program. These are evaluated through the use of appropriate designs and instruments. Nutrition education programs that link research, theory, and practice are more likely to be effective.

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