U of G Nutrition Research Earns Kudos

January 10, 2011 - News Release

A University of Guelph-led research project to develop a screening tool for preschoolers at nutritional risk has received accolades from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The research by U of G professors Janis Randall Simpson and Heather Keller was highlighted as a "knowledge translation" success story in a recent casebook published by the federal granting agency.

“This is well-deserved recognition for Janis and Heather,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research). “This project is an excellent example of the way Guelph researchers are translating their knowledge and research into action for the benefit of all Canadians.”

Randall Simpson and Keller, both of the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, created a screening checklist in 2007 to improve how public health agencies address children’s nutritional problems. The project also involved Joanne Beyers of the Sudbury and District Health Unit and Lee Rysdale of the Ontario Public Health Association.

NutriSTEP® (Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler) was the first of its kind in Canada. Ten years in the making, it focuses on children aged three to five and is administered by parents. The tool consists of a 17-question checklist on topics such as growth, eating and drinking habits, and activity levels, as well as related toolkits and training materials.

Previously, health authorities identified at-risk children only after they had developed nutritional problems. “We needed a way to identify them before they suffer from obesity or get diabetes,” Randall Simpson said.
NutriSTEP® was piloted in Canada within immunization programs and preschool screening fairs. A CIHR knowledge translation grant in 2008 allowed the researchers to provide the screening tool on the World Wide Web.

“Our goal was to disseminate the information as widely as possible,” Randall Simpson said. “We had received many requests from across Canada and other countries about the program, so we knew that there was a need.”

They created a website and translated the questionnaire into eight languages. So far, there have been more than 20,000 visits to the site, with more than 300 licences granted for the questionnaire and hundreds of toolkits downloaded. NutriSTEP® is also used by health services in Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick.

The researchers will use another CIHR grant to develop a toddler version of NutriSTEP®.

CIHR is Canada’s premier health research funding agency, supporting thousands of researchers in universities, teaching hospitals and research institutions nationwide.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or dhealey@uoguelph.ca.

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