American adults consume an average of 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day. That amount is more than twice the recommended limit for most Americans. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day for people 51 and older, African Americans, and those who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. This makes up about half the U.S. population ages 2 and older. The dietary guidelines recommend that all other individuals consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. However, it is difficult for individuals to limit their intake of sodium when it is found in most of the foods they eat in liberal quantities and it makes the food tastier. For example, nearly 80 percent of U.S. adult’s sodium intake comes from packaged and restaurant foods. To help people eat healthier we need effective education programs that help them increase their nutrition knowledge, build their food purchasing and preparation skills, develop critical thinking skills, and change their food consumption behaviors. We also need to develop creative ways to reach our audiences and to evaluate our effectiveness.
In this issue we have some interesting papers, each of which addresses at least one of the issues mentioned above although only one is focused on nutrition education. This issue also includes a review of the cookbook, 500 Low Sodium Recipes, by Dick Logue. The information in this cookbook is extremely useful for both the educator and lay public.
The need to educate people concerning their dietary intake and lifestyle, especially their sodium intake, is critical as has been shown by the literature. One paper describes the longevity of skills and behaviors taught to a primarily Latino audience during the classes of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. Follow-up evaluation was applied three months after the end of the classes. The authors describe the divergent results in longevity of the skill-based behaviors vs the food consumption behaviors and their explanation for the difference, including a discussion concerning the stage of readiness. The information they discuss is applicable for a broad variety of programs, not just nutrition programs.
Other authors discuss developing and evaluating critical thinking skills in their audience. Development of these skills is needed and plausible in all audiences and would certainly be helpful when individuals need to decide what house or car to buy, what foods to purchase, prepare or eat, or whatever decision presents itself. The authors define critical thinking skills, discuss the need for these skills and describe their work on this topic with a low-income audience.
One paper addresses a new method of reaching audiences with financial education. The authors describe the development and evaluation of a financial education program delivered via social media. Social media is the term used to describe networked digital media such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, and more. It is valuable to Extension educators for dissemination of information.
The remaining two papers focus on various aspects of evaluation, a topic critical to successful programming and reporting results. One discusses the use of online webinars as tools for building Extension evaluation capacity and the other discusses the pros and cons of using qualitative program evaluation methods. Both have relevant information for the educator who wants to improve a program or document the success of a program.
These papers show innovative approaches and techniques and are rich with new, practical, and relevant information for the educator. As always, it is my hope that you will read the papers, apply the information to your situation, and enjoy the experience.
Jacquelyn W. McClelland, Ph.D.
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