Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 18, 2005

Checklist to Provide Early Warning of Childhood Nutritional Risk

Amid growing concerns and awareness about childhood health and nutrition – especially childhood obesity – University of Guelph researchers are developing an “early warning system” they hope will provide parents with knowledge about their preschoolers’ nutrition risks.

Applied nutrition professors Janis Randall Simpson and Heather Keller, along with Joanne Beyers and Lee Rysdale of the Sudbury and District Health Unit, are leading the development of a new screening checklist – NutriSTEP – for parents on childhood nutrition. It gauges whether young children are at low, medium or high risk for common nutritional problems such as being underweight or overweight and having an iron deficiency caused by lack of variety in their diet.

The researchers believe the checklist will be quicker, cheaper and more realistic than bringing in dietitians to examine individual children. It is aimed at children between the ages of three and five. “There needs to be a way to assess nutritional risk in early childhood – around preschooler age – in a realistic and cost-effective way,” said Randall Simpson. “This is a key time period for their growth and development.”

Along with the checklist, parents can refer to the supplementary educational booklets that are also provided for answers to many of their nutrition questions and concerns. These documents come in four and 12-page booklets, and have been recognized by Dietitians of Canada.

Randall Simpson and her collaborators are planning to compare the checklist results with actual dietitians’ assessments to ensure the checklist is valid. Beginning in May, 300 parents in Sudbury, London and Toronto will complete the screening checklist, then meet with a dietitian who will perform a full nutritional assessment on the parents preschool children. The assessment will include reviewing food intake records, weight and height measurements and the child’s overall health and physical activity.

“It’s our hope that the rating of nutritional risk from the checklist will match the risk from the dietitians’ assessment,” said Randall Simpson. If the checklist can be validated, she hopes it will be used to screen for children’s health and nutrition in many settings, from preschool and junior kindergarten classrooms to doctors’ offices.

The project was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research through the Institutes of Population and Public Health and Nutrition, Diabetes and Metabolism, the Ontario Early Years Challenge Fund, the City of Greater Sudbury and Health Canada through the Population Health Fund.

University of Guelph: (519) 824-4120
Janis Randall Simpson, Ext. 53843

Sudbury and District Health Unit: (705) 522-9200
Joanne Beyers, Ext. 355
Lee Rysdale, Ext. 201

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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