Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 3, Page 10
Spring 1992
Some good, healthy data

     A 10-year national plan to profile what Americans are eating,
developed with assistance from Marie Fanelli Kuczmarski, associate
professor of nutrition and dietetics, will provide U.S. policymakers
with plenty of food for thought.
     Coordinating data from a variety of government surveys, the plan
will provide Congress with national nutrition information that can be
used for a wide range of decisions--from establishing food labeling
requirements to evaluating military meals.
     In 1990, Congress assigned responsibility to the Department of
Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop
a 10-year comprehensive plan to assess and report on the nutritional
status of the U.S. population.
     Completed in March by a joint working group that included
Kuczmarski, the plan calls for a scientific report of findings from
federal nutrition monitoring surveys every five years from 1992 to
2002. Summaries, complete with graphic interpretations, will be
published every two years.
     The plan seeks better coordination between government agencies to
avoid duplication of research, Kuczmarski said, and proposes a
timetable for research priorities, while designating agencies
responsible for the surveys.
     "We also are proposing better coverage of such neglected groups
as the homeless, migrant workers, the elderly, infants and teenagers
as well as Native American, black and Hispanic populations," she says.
"To include these neglected groups may mean simply over-sampling for
them, even though this is more expensive. Some of these groups have
been excluded from telephone surveys simply because they have no
     In addition to identifying the nutritional status of high-risk
groups, data collected and assessed under the coordinated program can
be used to track dietary trends, determine the relationships of diet
to nutrition and health and regulate the safety, labeling and
fortification of food products. Policy makers, researchers and health
professionals can use the information to evaluate food assistance
programs, public health nutrition programs and meals for the military.
Decisions that may affect the food supply, including production and
marketing, also can be based on the data.
     Ultimately, a clearinghouse may provide all the national
nutrition data to the public. "Much data are available now, but not
many people are aware of all the resources available to them or how to
get it," Kuczmarski says.