Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are jointly issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and emphasize a food-based approach to promote health and reduce risk for chronic disease. The Guidelines are updated every five years and provide information on choosing a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, achieving adequate exercise, and avoiding food-borne illness.
Studies have shown that compliance with the Guidelines recommendations is poor, particularly among low-income and minority racial populations, who experience higher rates of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases. Abt Associates is conducting a study to identify the barriers, both real and perceived, to consumers' ability and willingness to adopt the guidelines. The project is comprised of a comprehensive literature review and final report addressing dietary shortcomings, barriers to following the Guidelines, and existing efforts to overcome the barriers for specific sub-populations at higher risk of diet related chronic disease. Results of the study will be used to develop the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.
The project team is identifying common dietary shortcomings relative to the Guidelines, such as consuming too much sodium or saturated fat, and the related health consequences. This component of the study also identifies sub-populations of low-income Americans, defined at 130 percent of the poverty level, based on region, ethnicity, education, and other criteria. Tracking information for Healthy People 2010, a set of U.S. health objectives promoted by HHS, is a primary resource for this portion of the study.
Based on the dietary shortcomings review, the team is focusing on a key set of dietary recommendations and reviewing literature to identify the economic, socio-cultural, environmental, and other barriers to compliance. Key themes and conclusions as well as the impact of the barriers will be summarized.
In the final phase of the study, Abt Associates is identifying public and private efforts to overcome dietary guideline barriers for low-income populations at the national, state, and local levels. The team will focus on programs that include a formal effectiveness evaluation, and will prepare a summary of program characteristics that are particularly successful or unsuccessful.
Abt Associates is using the EndNote bibliographic database in a unique way to support the project by placing their reviews of materials within the EndNote form and attaching a pdf of the article. This approach enables those using the report and the libraries of reference materials in the future to have ready access to the critique and the article.
Electronic access to library journals has been a key element in conducting the research effectively and efficiently. As articles are identified through Web-based search engines, the team can then go directly to the Abt Associates electronic library and download a full pdf of the article.
The project is led by Bernadette Marriott, Principal Associate, and includes Patty Connor, Gail Langeloh, Luba Katz, and Laura Tierney from the Social and Economic Policy and Domestic Health divisions. The final report is scheduled for release in July 2008.
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.