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Nutrition knowledge, attitudes and practices of public health nurses in Greater Vancouver Nichols, Susan Deborah Caroline


The findings of Nutrition Canada, a national nutrition survey, have emphasized the importance of nutrition education to the public. It is a fact that the health professional most often disseminating nutrition information to the public is the public health nurse. Thus there was a need to investigate the nutritional knowledge of public health nurses, as well as their attitudes toward nutrition, and the kind of nutrition information they are offering to the public. This study involved testing the dependent variables: nutrition knowledge, attitudes and practices of public health nurses and comparing these with the independent variables: educational background, recency of acquisition of nursing related degree, years of nursing experience, age, qualification of the educators who taught nutrition in the training curriculum, years of home economics studied in high school, number of nutrition related communications with a nutritionist, and other types of nutrition experience or education. The nature of the relationship of knowledge, attitudes, and practices, and the interrelationships of knowledge and attitudes with practices were determined. Data were collected by a mail questionnaire which yielded a response rate of 85.1%. Coding and computer analysis of data resulted in percentage mean scores for the tests of nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and practices of 75.79, 89.48, and 65.08 respectively. The areas of nutrition knowledge in which the public health nurses scored lowest were nutrition and pregnancy-related to requirements and supplementation, knowledge about nutrient requirements, nutrient composition of foods, and weight reduction. Tests of nutrition attitudes revealed that the nurses had poor attitudes toward the importance of meal planning. Public health nurses demonstrated poor practices in counselling the public in budgeting, vegetarian diets, and dietary manipulation of fats. Nurses showed poor personal nutrition practices in meal management and in adhering to the recommended cereal group intake of the B.C. Daily Food Guide. Regression analysis indicated that the factors related to nutrition knowledge were educational background, recency of acquisition of nursing related degree, and years of experience. Factors related to nutrition attitudes were age, home economics training in high school, number of consultations with a nutritionist, and attendance at nutrition courses in continuing education. Nutrition practices were related to opportunities for consultation with a nutritionist and attendance at nutrition conferences. Partial correlation analysis of the dependent variables revealed significant and direct relationships between knowledge and attitudes, practices and attitudes, and practices and knowledge. The weakest relationship was between knowledge and attitudes. The strongest relationship was between knowledge and practices. Recommendations for a more effective inservice nutrition education program for public health nurses were made.

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