Exploring nutrition literacy: Attention to assessment and the skills clients need
Heather Gibbs, Karen Chapman-Novakofski
Nutrition; Literacy; Education; Counseling Skills
ABSTRACT: This exploratory study examines nutrition literacy in two parts: 1) the level of attention to health literacy among nutrition professionals, and 2) the nutrition professional’s perspective of skills/ knowledge needed to understand nutrition education. Part 1 included an online survey in which RD participants (n = 206), recruited from three dietetic practice groups, identified use of health literacy assessments during client education. Most participants (79%) did not use a validated health literacy assessment. There was a significant difference in response to having written materials for different health literacy levels depending on time spent providing nutrition education, with those sending less time in education responding they more often had more materials (Chi-square 8.6, p = 0.035) and depending on job description, public health more often than outpatient dietitian (p = 0.006). Part 2 utilized key informant interviews (n = 8), administered by telephone. Content analysis revealed a significant theme among answers that the skills required for understanding diet education is dependent on the type of diet instruction provided, with diabetes frequently noted as a disease requiring greater knowledge and skills. Nutrition educators need an instrument to assess client nutrition literacy. Potential instruments should assess skills related to portion size estimation, macronutrient knowledge, interpretation of food labels, and food grouping.