Monday, August 2, 2010

Lessons from Research: Who's Working on Family Dinner

The researchers who work on family dinner are a varied sort. They come from nutrition and food science schools, from medical schools, from schools of public health and schools of nursing, and from a wide range of programs in social work, sociology, and psychology. Each of these disciplines come at the research from a different perspective, but findings are surprisingly similar. Family dinner offers a protective effect for kids and teenagers, be it less risk-taking activities, like smoking and underage drinking, more positive actions like improved eating habits and better grades, or just improved general well-being.

The next frontier of research, I think, is to bring the detailed findings of these studies out from inside the ivory tower. Let's figure out how to translate the research into action that goes beyond the occasional pep talk. We need to find out how to both encourage and support families who are trying to create a family dinner routine for their families. Do they need more information about healthy choices at the grocery stores and navigating the choices among prepared foods?  Advice on 20-minute meals cooked at home and menu planning? Do they need help with their family relationships so that everyone chips in? Do they simply need more time? More time might mean flexible and supportive work environments that allow them to go home by 5 or 6pm at night. Probably, all of the above.

Health education campaigns sound so easy, but effective campaigns to change individual health behaviors are notoriously difficult to craft.  It can be also hard to measure their effectiveness or translate what works in one community to another. Nevertheless, the benefits of family dinner are well worth a concerted effort to better promote them.

Select List of Academic Research Centers Working on Family Dinner
The National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), Columbia University,
Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Chairman
Founders of National Family Day
Report on The Important of Family Dinner

University of Minnesota, School of Public Health
Project EAT. Principal Investigator: Diane Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD
Other Research Projects

Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
Eat Healthy New Haven
Other Research Projects

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The Pampered Chef Family Resiliency Program Center,  Barbara Fiese, Ph.D., Director

Harvard Pilgrim Heath Care Institute, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Obesity Prevention Program

International Association of the Study of Obesity (iaso), Europe
The ENERGY Project

Cornell Food Lab
Food Psychology and How, Why, When and How Much We Eat, Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director

Baylor College of Medicine
Children's Nutrition Research Center, Dennis Bier, MD., Director

1 comment:

  1. it is so interesting to see this range! and so clear that there is room for more inquiry.


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