by Alice Pareti
A new report, co-authored by Iowa State University Professor Cathie Woteki, food science and human nutrition, identifies strategies to strengthen federal food and nutrition research and policy, and was the focus of a national online event hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.
The report, Strengthening national nutrition research: Rationale and options for a new coordinated federal research effort and authority published in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, provides an in-depth review of the federal government’s current coordination and support of food and nutrition research. Organized in three main sections, the report provides a set of recommendations aimed at federal agencies that rely on federally supported nutrition research, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“With the number of unhealthy Americans growing, our goal is to make the argument that now is the time to invest in federal government research programs as they relate to human nutrition and food,” said Woteki.
The first part of the report, or white paper, talks about the burden of disease in the United States.
“In stark terms it outlines that the majority of adults in the United States are not healthy,” said Woteki. “The U.S. Department of Defense released startling statistics that 75 percent of those signing up for military service couldn't pass the basic fitness tests because of obesity.”
The report’s second section explains how a federal structure for nutrition research and funding, spread among many different agencies and departments, complicates coordination among many diverse programs.
The third part focuses on what can be done to strengthen nutrition research programs within the NIH and USDA. Woteki played a significant role in laying out sets of options or approaches to address the challenges.
“There isn’t a single answer,” said Woteki. “That’s why we gave several options, each with their pros and cons. Some of the solutions are long-term goals and some are easier to accomplish.”
Woteki is encouraged by the interest their report has already generated, especially from the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“The more our report sparks discussion, the more likely it will generate change,” said Woteki.