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What Should You Eat, Who Should You Believe?

6 September, 2005


What Should You Eat, Who Should You Believe?
Conference Sheds Light On Nutrition Messages

Consumers are being bombarded with a myriad of nutrition messages that are often confusing and hard to put into practice, says renowned American dietitian and executive vice president of the International Food Information Council (IFIC), Susan Borra.

In the keynote speech at tomorrow’s New Zealand Dietetic Association (NZDA) conference, Susan will share with New Zealand dietitians her research-based insight into what types of messages will meet the needs of consumers, giving them real solutions.

“Consumers are interested in healthful eating, we just have to make it easy for them by communicating with them, rather than at them. People often know what they should be doing, but are put off because they believe it is too hard to make changes to their already busy lives,” she says.

Susan Borra believes dietitians are in a valuable position to construct nutrition messages based on science, and show people how easy it is to make changes by communicating their messages well.

“As dietitians we have the food and nutrition expertise to be accurate and credible sources, however communication skills are sometimes the last tool we add to the box. The challenge for nutrition experts is to tap into people’s lifestyles and ways of living, to make our advice achievable and meaningful,” Susan says.

Changes in the modern world have had a major impact on the dietetic profession according to Susan.

“The worldwide obesity epidemic is going to shape the way we think and work for years to come. At the same time, functional foods, foods with bioactive components and nutrigenomics are coming to the fore as trends shaping food and nutrition in the not too distant future.”

Susan Borra is one of a number of speakers at the NZDA ‘Tools for the Future’ conference which opens tomorrow. She will be using her expertise to provide New Zealand dietitians with insight into mastering nutrition communication as a key component of their toolbox, and is also guest speaker at the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation’s Annual Lecture tonight, where she will speak more about topical food and nutrition issues.

‘Tools for the Future’ is being held at the Ellerslie Convention Centre on September 7 – 9. It aims to arm dietitians with up-to-date information on the latest technology, assessment tools, communication methods and nutrition promotion strategies.


Note: Key conference speakers’ biographies and abstracts attached

About the NZDA

The New Zealand Dietetic Association, founded in 1943, is the professional Association for registered dietitians and associated professionals. New Zealand registered dietitians are registered by the Dietitians’ Board. Members of NZDA work within a professional code of ethics.

For more information visit:

Keynote speakers bio notes and abstracts

Susan T Borra, RD. - Bio
Executive Vice-President, International Food Information Council

Susan Borra is a nationally recognised nutrition leader with over twenty-five years of exemplary experience in strategically directing nutrition and food safety issues, policies, communications programs, and managing resources for national organisations representing the food retailing and food processing industries.

She is currently the executive vice president at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in Washington DC, a nonprofit organisation that communicates sound, science-based information on nutrition and food safety to health professionals, educators, government officials, journalists and consumers.

In her role at IFIC, Susan directs communications programs, executes public affairs strategies, and manages nutrition and food safety issues. Widely acknowledged for her expertise in consumer research on nutrition and health, she directs the development of consumer education initiatives and programs. During her tenure at IFIC, her projects have ranged from translating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans into consumer-friendly messages (It’s All About You), to successfully launching, a website for children aged 9 – 12 that encourages healthy eating and physical activity.

As a registered dietitian, Susan has held many leadership and advisory roles for professional organisations and societies. She has served as president of The American Dietetic Association (ADA) (2001-2002), chairman of the ADA Foundation (1999-2000), and is active within the American Heart Association. Susan has also served as a member on the Subcommittee on Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes of the National Academy of Sciences (1998-2001).

Prior to joining IFIC, Susan was director of consumer affairs at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) where she developed and managed nutrition, food safety and consumer affair programs for the retail food industry. In addition, she worked closely with FMI’s research team to refine the Trends in the Supermarket survey to include nutrition and food safety questions that are frequently quoted by the media and many nutrition professionals. While with FMI, she was directly responsible for the creation of the award-winning program, Healthy Start…Food to Grow On, a healthy eating program for children ages 4 to 6 produced in partnership with the American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Susan has a bachelor's degree in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Maryland at College Park, and completed her internship at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, MD.

Susan T Borra - Abstract

Inspiring Consumers to Better Health by Mastering Nutrition Communication

Communicating effective nutrition and health messages to consumers is both an art and a science. These days, consumers are bombarded from all directions - television, newspapers, magazines, and the web - with lots of nutrition information. Whether or not we realise it, each and every dietetic professional is a communicator and can help clarify messages and eliminate consumer confusion. As dietitians, we possess the food and nutrition expertise to serve as accurate and credible sources. However, we may need some assistance to precisely craft messages that reflect the science and are also consumer-friendly, inspiring and actionable. This session will provide tools and techniques to master many types of communications including developing and delivering meaningful messages to consumers.

Linda McCann, RD. CSR, LD - Bio
Director of Clinical Systems and Nutrition, Satellite Healthcare, California, USA

Linda McCann has been a renal dietitian for over 30 years. She is currently director of Clinical Systems and Nutrition for Satellite Healthcare in Redwood City, CA, USA. She is the manager of all clinical computer system projects and has responsibility for all nutrition services within the five divisions of Satellite Healthcare as well as supervision of 26 renal dietitians in 19 clinics.

Linda has served in many capacities with the National Kidney Foundation and the Council of Renal Nutrition. She has received a number of distinguished service awards and was awarded the Joel D Kopple Lectureship for Excellence in Renal Nutrition in 2003.

She has been published in a variety of professional journals and has written several book chapters on renal nutrition.

Linda has spoken to and trained many professionals, patients and laypersons around the world on topics related to renal nutrition. She has also co-developed an interactive website for dietitians to implement K/DOQI nutrition practice guidelines.

Linda has published on Subjective Global Assessment as far back as 1990. She has lectured on SGA around the world and is a recognised world authority on SGA.

Linda McCann - Abstract

Subjective Global Assessment: a useful tool for dietitians

Subjective global assessment (SGA) is a simple nutrition tool that correlates with objective nutrition measures. In some populations, the SGA score is a stronger predictor of morbidity and mortality than albumin or body mass index. SGA formalises and records much of what is already being done by dietitians. It creates a historical record of nutrition status based on specific criteria and has been successfully used in a variety of patient populations including surgery, cancer, elderly, transplantation, dialysis, early CKD, and other chronic diseases. Chronic disease lends itself to serial nutrition measurements such as those provided by SGA. Simple training and set criteria enhance the ability of SGA to provide accurate, comparative nutrition status data for specific populations.

Heather Keller, PhD, RD. - Bio
Associate-Professor Family Relations & Applied Nutrition Dept, University of Guelph, Canada

Heather is an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph, Canada in the Family Relations and Applied Nutrition Department, teaching graduate clinical and nutrition assessment.

As a dietitian and clinical researcher, Heather has studied the prevalence of malnutrition in chronic care institutions and the effect of this malnutrition on function and health outcomes. When her research interests expanded to include community living seniors, it was difficult to assess their nutritional status. Heather developed and validated nutritional risk screening instruments for use in the community.

This work continues with expansion to screening tools appropriate for cognitively impaired seniors. Most recently Heather has studied the benefit of clinical nutrition services to nutritional status of Alzheimer’s clients and nutrition education for community-living seniors.

Heather Keller - Abstract

What makes a good screening tool? Considerations in the development and validation of nutrition risk screening tools

With the increasing interest in timely nutrition assessment and care, nutrition risk screening has become an important part of practice for dietitians and clinicians. Nutrition risk screening can help target comprehensive nutrition assessments and treatment protocols in community and clinical settings. Targeted assessment and treatment can potentially improve the quality of care, by ensuring that those most in need of specialised services are prioritised for this care. Many dietitians use simple and practical algorithms in practice for determining which clients they will serve and when. There is a growing interest in using standardised screening completed by other clinicians and staff to assist with appropriate referrals to dietitians. This interest in standardised screening has lead to the development and validation of several indices for nutrition risk screening. When choosing an index for practice, it is important to consider how the index was developed and validated and can be used in your setting. When developing a screening index the following need to be considered: the target group, the mode of administration (self, interviewer, chart review), the training required, the concept of nutrition risk (what this entails for this target group/setting), feasibility of items and questions, and the wording and format of the screening index. Validation of indices is important to determine that the index measures the concept of interest, in this case, nutrition risk. Validation can take many forms including: content, construct, criterion and predictive validity. This presentation will provide an overview of the development and validation steps for SCREEN© and NutriSTEP© as well as key considerations for selecting indices for practice. The issue of “ethical screening” will also be presented as an important concept when developing a screening program.

John Gillies, MB ChB, FAAP, FRACP, FRCPC, MRSNZ - Bio
Consultant Paediatrician, Lecturer in Health Informatics, University of Otago, Dunedin

John is a consultant Paediatrician whose interest in information science has resulted in his appointment with the University of Otago as a teacher in Health Informatics, where he co-ordinates the post graduate Diploma in Health Informatics, together with Masters and PhD programmes in the subject.

As a Paediatrician, John’s research interest is in childhood respiratory illnesses, and in Health Informatics he is especially interested in portable computing, especially as it can be applied to the clinical consultation. He has been involved in pioneering work on the electronic health record.

Over the last two years, John has undertaken several research projects for the World Health Organisation involving the delivery of Informatics courses to health professionals living and working in the Pacific Islands.

John Gillies - Abstract

Informatics – skills for dietitians of the future

Accessing information is a major part of the daily life of all professionals, and whilst large portions of commonly-used material can be stored in our memory, we frequently have to resort to other information sources when less common issues arise. Prior to the advent of the personal computer, we would usually find information in written form from books, articles and journals that we either have in our offices, or are available from professional libraries.

The personal computer enabled us to store large volumes of information in a relatively small space, and depending upon how that information was organised, it could be interrogated and referred to relatively easily.

In the early 1990s, the Internet became available for public use, and a massive amount of information is now available to everybody who has a computer and modem.

We have moved from having private access to our professional material, to a public information arena and this has significantly changed all professional practices. Now we need skills in information management because not only does the non-professional have access to much of the same material that we do, but most do not know how to evaluate it. The quality of information in the Internet is not controlled, so anybody can publish instantly to a world-wide audience. It is so easy that anybody can publish their personal opinion without any significant scientific basis at all. The Internet is full of such material.

Informatics is about information. It deals with all aspects from finding it, to evaluating it, storing it, updating it, retrieving it, using it and presenting it. Skills in informatics are now essential tools for all professionals.

We explore the application of informatics to the practice of dietetics and identify technologies and resources that are currently available to make the process of information management easier and more convenient. We also look at the future and ways in which informatics could impact upon the way we will work in 15 – 20 years time.

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