Nutrition and Wellness
Katherine Truscott, RD
Nutritionist, Department of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center
Q&A with Katherine Truscott, RD
Katherine Truscott is a registered nutritionist and dietician. She is a board member and nutritional advisor to the school-based, non-profit organization, Meet the Worms. She is also a nutritionist in the Department of Pediatrics Grow Clinic and Baby Steps Clinic at Boston Medical Center and runs a private practice.
- Can you tell us a little about the work you do with Meet the Worms?
- As a clinical nutritionist, you work with two very different populations – I’m curious what similarities and/or differences you’ve encountered in terms of obesity and healthy lifestyle?
- What kinds of public health interventions are effective in addressing the problem of obesity in low income communities?
I’m a board member and educator with Meet the Worms, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children about the importance of nutrition and health through hands-on learning. Our work is based at Blackstone Elementary School, which is located about four blocks away from the BUMC campus. We have a greenhouse and garden where the kids grow their own vegetables. Every Monday we lead cooking demonstrations and other activities to educate and get them excited about healthy eating. These activities are integrated into their math and science classes so that their lessons cross over. The idea is to teach kids early so that they will continue healthy behaviors throughout their lifetime. Schools serve as an important site of intervention. It is also important to target the family as a whole since many of their habits are learned at home – I’ve found that this is the case both at Blackstone and in my private practice.
I see so many similarities between the high and low income communities when it comes to unhealthy eating habits and physical activity. It may be for slightly different reasons, but even people who can afford healthy food are often more likely to stuff kids’ lunch boxes with chips and soda that they’ve bought in bulk from Costco rather than provide healthier options. In contrast, many families from the poorer urban communities that I work with cannot afford the same variety of healthy foods nor do they have access to it in their local food stores. In this scenario, parents aren’t even given the choice to eat healthy. Whether it’s because of lack of time, availability, cost or a host of other reasons, the problem of obesity and unhealthy lifestyle exists across socioeconomic boundaries.
Improving food access is a good starting point. There are studies that have shown that when low income families are given access to healthy and affordable options in their local stores, they are more likely to make healthy choices. This approach is demonstrated by the research of Joel Gittelsohn, PhD, and the Healthy Stores initiative. What makes this program effective and interesting is that it takes a comprehensive approach – increasing healthy food inventories, educating and training store owners, educating the community and promoting healthy food choices through social marketing.
More locally, I’ve noticed food trucks selling produce around the South End – this is a wonderful way to make affordable fruits and veggies available to this neighborhood. These trucks should be celebrated, but there is much more work to be done.
FOR MORE ON THE TOPIC VISIT:
- Institute of Medicine seminal report evaluating obesity prevention strategies and providing recommendations for living a healthy life.
- Weight of the Nation – Not only an award winning documentary, the website is one of the best resources available on the obesity epidemic – from the individual and societal levels – fact sheets, video clips, profiles and in depth interviews with experts from across the field of obesity.
- CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity offers a portal for healthy living tips as well as national statistics, fact sheets, and information about state and community wellness initiatives.
- US DHHS Healthy People 2020 website provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for a
improving the health of all Americans – a good go-to resource for national data and guidelines.
- Choose My Plate – USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion dynamic web-based tool for setting, tracking and keeping healthy goals.