Patient Education and Community Outreach with MyPyramid

Promote health and create practice growth through partnering with the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

By David D. Parks, DC

Nutrition is extremely important in obtaining and maintaining good health. Yet convincing patients to take accountability for their diets can be a challenging task. Patients are often aware that they need to change dietary habits and increase exercise, but they either lack the resources to do so or are confused about how to start.

Our office found the help we needed in a program initiated by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). The “Partnering with MyPyramid” program promotes the use of www.MyPyramid.gov —a Web site based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines that provides information and advice on choosing a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in adequate exercise and avoiding food-borne illness.

The Web site is designed for patients of different age groups. It includes interactive games and activities for children, and provides a food tracker for adults that calculates the nutritional value of various foods and shows how those foods relate to the guidelines. There is also information on how to make lifestyle changes, and podcasts that offer encouragement along the way.

Patient Education Resource
Before I promoted the Dietary Guidelines and the MyPyramid Web site to my patients, I used the resources myself. Following the guidelines helped me lose 40 pounds, which I have been able to keep off for more than two years. I was able to see a trend with my eating habits: My diet lacked complex carbohydrates. I made changes and experienced positive results, which I was excited to share with my patients.

Our clinic’s approach to nutrition is to encourage healthful eating habits and increase exercise before supplementation is recommended. We emphasize MyPyramid as a valuable, free source of information, which is given to every patient in a written report of findings. We encourage patients to track the food they eat with the MyPyramid “Food Tracker” and review the results. The tracker compares food consumed with the recommended guidelines and also estimates the nutritional value. We promote the Web site to our patients through the use of posters and handouts in the office. We also include the link to MyPyramid in all of our newsletters and on our Web site. Additionally, we distribute these resources to local business owners.

Community Outreach and Positive PR
Our office has also held nutrition workshops, and we have incorporated links, handouts and references into our treatment recommendations for our patients. The first workshop we hosted was co-sponsored by a large grocery store chain that has three stores within five miles of our office. The grocery stores helped distribute fliers about the workshop to their customers a week before the event. Our office logo and the grocery store chain’s logo were on all advertisements about the event. We conducted the workshop using the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, a USDA publication based on the guidelines and What Should I Eat: A Complete Guide to the New Food Pyramid.

Our office has also had success with increased positive exposure while promoting improved nutrition and exercise on local TV stations, in newspapers, at the chamber of commerce and with business groups. Recently, using a template from ACA, we sent a press release to three local TV stations and received invitations from two of them to be interviewed about MyPyramid the following week. We’re able to adapt our information to work with several different focuses. For example, one of the TV stations wanted to do a segment on children’s nutrition. My four-year-old son and I presented information on how he was using MyPyramid’s food tracker.

We have found it easy to make contacts with the media as a “MyPyramid Alliance Partner” with the desire to improve the health of the public. This is something we have created with ACA’s member resources and our imagination. The program has set parameters for you to follow and has a lot of free visual aids; however, it encourages educators to be creative with their projects.

Get Involved
Currently the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being developed, and more than 170 partners are now preparing to promote the new guidelines. Most are members of the food industry or non-profit groups. However, educators and physicians are encouraged to participate. There is an agreement that Alliance partners must abide by in promoting the CNPP Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid.gov. It can be found at www.mypyramid.gov/Challenge/index.html. Once approved as an Alliance partner, your office’s logo is posted on the Web site and you receive newsletter updates from CNPP.

For more information on partnering with MyPyramid at the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, e-mail Shelley Maniscalco at Shelley.maniscalco@cnpp.usda.gov.

For ACA’s PR resources and patient education materials, go to www.acatoday.org/PRresources and www.acatoday.org/healthyliving.