Today, my fellow intern Mary & I had the opportunity to create our own undergraduate nutrition course to be eventually submitted for approval, and could potentially be taught in the summer of 2013! In the next few years there will be an increase in the need of additional nutrition courses and nutrition faculty at WVU as the current “Human Nutrition & Foods” major may be split into “Dietetics” and “Food Safety & Technology.” I think it is a great idea to split the current major into 2 more specific majors. I know at University of Nebraska, the nutrition-related majors included:
- Dietetics (for those planning to apply for Dietetic Internships and become Registered Dietitians)
- Nutrition Science (popular with many pre-professionals- those who want to become Dentists, Physician’s Assistants, Chiropractors, Pharmacists, Physical Therapists, & Physicians)
- Culinology(R) or Culinary Science (Corporate Chefs, Research & Development Chefs, Lab Managers, Research Managers)
- Nutrition, Exercise, & Health Science (for students interested in health, & wellness programs- those who want careers in corporate wellness, sports nutrition, community health promotion programs, and private health clubs)
These four different nutrition-related majors at UNL made it possible for the requirements of each major to be more specifically tailored to the student’s individual career goal. I think splitting WVU’s “Human Nutrition & Foods” into “Dietetics” and “Food Saftey & Technology” (or something similar) will allow those students who wish to be Registered Dietitians the opportunity to learn more about their specific career goals and how to reach them, as well as take courses that will best benefit them in the future. Similarly, students who are interested in food science, but do not want to become dietitians, will be able to focus on more helpful courses, such as Food Microbiology, rather than Community Nutrition. I feel this will produce more capable Food Scientists, and more capable Dietitians, rather than having a major that tries to appease both sides and find a safe middleground.
So the course we decided to make is a 3-credit online course entitled “HNF 251: Discernment of Nutrition Claims in the Media.” We came up with a draft of the course description and course objectives below:
The application of educated judgment to accept or reject the claims made by individuals who present themselves as “experts” in health and nutrition, exercise methods, nutritional supplements, and fact verses fiction in lifetime weight management.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Use scientific research to evaluate nutritional claims.
- Evaluate and recognize expert and peer-reviewed sources verses unreliable or questionable sources of health and nutrition resources in the media.
- Navigate and be familiar with using a variety of media outlets.
- Gain knowledge about current and contemporary nutrition hot topics, issues, and controversies.
- Have a better understanding of information literacy and how they can apply it in their professional career.
- Demonstrate exemplary writing and communication skills.
- Demonstrate their health knowledge and individual interests by regularly posting and updating in an online nutritional blog.
- Discuss conflicting viewpoints about controversial issues in nutrition and foods.
- Explain and defend a valid nutritional viewpoint with evidence-based support.
- Independently use the WVU Health Sciences Center and Evansdale Library to access reliable sources of nutrition information.
The class assignments include:
- Weekly quizzes
- Mandatory weekly blog updates
- Choosing an ad that makes a nutrition claim (ie: hcg makes you lose weight fast!) and conducting a literature review from peer-reviewed journal articles to make an educated decision on the truth (or falsehood) of that ad
- Writing letters to the editor in response to a nutrition/health advice column (was the advice based on scientific evidence?)
- Watching films such as Weight of the Nation or Supersize Me and writing response papers
- Evaluating scientific journal articles related to health and nutrition.
These assignments cover many aspects of information literacy (ability to find reliable sources of nutrition information, ability to navigate journal article databases on WVU’s library website, citing papers correctly) and forms of media (print ads, print articles, films, blogs, websites). Since this course covers information literacy as well as nutrition, the class could fufill GEC requirements that non-nutrition majors have.
My goal for this class is that at the end of the 15-week course, if someone comes up to a student and asks, “Hey, I just saw this ad for QuickTrim…the pills claim to help burn calories & detoxify the body! What do you think?,” the student will be able to come up with an educated response, will know where to find scientific research conducted on the product and its ingredients, will be able to interpret the research correctly, and come to an educated final conclusion that they can communicate back to the concerned individual. I also want the students to understand the importance of social media in the professional world and how they can use different social media outlets to further their image and career.