OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Online Course Teaches Healthcare Providers How to Identify Hunger

10/24/2008

PORTLAND, Ore. – Children who don’t get the food they need are at a high risk for life-long health problems. A new online course has been developed by the Childhood Hunger Initiative of Oregon and Oregon State University’s Ecampus program to help teach health care professionals how to better identify families that are experiencing hunger and poor nutrition.

"About 12 percent of Oregon’s households struggle with food insecurity," said OSU nutrition education specialist Anne Hoisington, "but their struggle may not be visible. Food insecurity involves more than hunger; families that are food insecure may have enough food, but not the right food that provides the proper balance of nutrients."

The course resulted from a survey of physicians and nurses in the Portland metro area.

“The survey showed that doctors and nurses want more knowledge about the health consequences of childhood food insecurity and how to incorporate intervention strategies into their clinical settings,” said Hoisington, who helped design the survey and the new online course.

Health care professionals are in a strategic position to address the consequences of childhood hunger, said Gov. Ted Kulongoski. “I’m proud to partner with the Childhood Hunger Initiative and encourage health care professionals to take advantage of this one-of-a-kind course to learn ways to assist families in need.”

The free, five-module course, “Childhood Food Insecurity: Health Impacts, Screening and Intervention,” is available at: http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/hunger.

The Childhood Hunger Initiative conducted a random survey of 600 physicians and nurse practitioners working in pediatric and family practice settings. The survey was funded by OSU Extension, Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Health and Science University and Providence Health and Services.

Deborah Frank, a medical doctor and professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, endorsed the survey. She also is founder of the Children's Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program. "This is a masterful summary to help Oregon physicians understand and address food insecurity that is threatening the well-being of mothers and children in their care," she said.

The course takes about an hour to complete and is available to anyone. Learners can earn one continuing medical education unit and receive a certificate of completion for taking the course and passing the test.

The majority of doctors and nurses responding to the survey (78 percent) said they are comfortable talking with patients about food status in a clinical setting, and 89 percent said they are willing to use a standardized screening question to identify risk for household food insecurity. The online course also will provide ways to communicate effectively with patients about hunger and help them find food assistance programs.

The Childhood Hunger Initiative (CHI) is a network of health care professionals, anti-hunger advocates and other interested Oregonians working together to educate the medical community, policy makers and the general public about the medical, developmental and psycho-social impacts of childhood food insecurity and hunger.