Nutrition Surveillance and Its Usefulness

Nutrition surveillance is a system established to continuously monitor the dietary intake and nutritional status of a population or selected population groups using a variety of data collection methods whose ultimate goal is to lead to policy formulation and action planning. The term 'nutrition monitoring' is often used in addition to or interchangeably with 'nutrition surveillance' and is defined as surveillance that is carried out on selected individuals. In this article, the term nutrition surveillance is used to include all data collection methods that are described.

The information obtained through nutrition surveillance is used for three broad purposes: policy development, nutrition research, and monitoring. As Figure 1 illustrates, there are strong interrelationships between these three purposes. Specifically, the information generated by nutrition surveillance activities is used to describe the nutritional status of the population and identify population groups at high nutrition risk. Programs are then targeted to those in need. The efficacy of the programs is assessed and nutrition policy developed. Trends in health status and food intake are monitored and food supply needs are estimated. Also, linkages between food consumption, nutritional status, and health status are examined. For example, normative data collected from surveys in the United States have been used to develop new growth charts, released in 2000, to monitor nutritional status and health of children. Similarly, the World Health Organization, using international data, is also in the process of developing new international growth charts. Monitoring trends in child

Data for research

Figure 1 Relationships among nutrition policymaking, nutrition research, and nutrition monitoring. (From the US Department of Health and Human Services/US Department of Agriculture (1993) Ten-year comprehensive plan for the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Program. Federal Register58: 32752-32806.)

Data for research

Figure 1 Relationships among nutrition policymaking, nutrition research, and nutrition monitoring. (From the US Department of Health and Human Services/US Department of Agriculture (1993) Ten-year comprehensive plan for the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Program. Federal Register58: 32752-32806.)

growth helps to identify populations in need, evaluate nutritional and health interventions, and raise political awareness of nutritional problems.

Food fortification is another example of an interaction between monitoring, research, and policy, and it highlights the importance of nutrition surveillance systems. Folic acid supplementation, in addition to normal dietary folate intake, was recognized to significantly reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, one of the most common birth defects. This led to the mandatory fortification in 1998 of enriched grain products with folic acid in Canada and the United States. Survey data were used to determine the amount of folic acid that needed to be added to the food supply to provide beneficial effects without the harmful effect of potentially excessive intake. Surveys that examined the impact of folic acid supplementation showed a 19% reduction in neural tube defects. Continuous monitoring is essential to ensure that the added intake of folic acid does not have longer term negative impacts on the different population groups.

Keep Your Weight In Check During The Holidays

Keep Your Weight In Check During The Holidays

A time for giving and receiving, getting closer with the ones we love and marking the end of another year and all the eating also. We eat because the food is yummy and plentiful but we don't usually count calories at this time of year. This book will help you do just this.

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