Telenutrition Helps in Rural Areas

“Telenutrition, a form of telehealth has the potential to increase access to nutrition care for people in rural areas where alternatives may be lacking,” according to Melissa Ventura Marra Assistant Professor at West Virginia University.

Telenutrition uses various technologies to implement nutrition care directly to patients in their homes. As Marra reports, “If patients do not have access to high-speed internet, they can receive telenutrition services at their local healthcare provider’s office.

The West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design is part of a multistate research effort involving 13 universities. The goal is to evaluate how food security and lifestyle choices such as diet quality and physical activity can affect individual health and well-being.

Researchers are also examining how molecular and mechanistic understanding of how nutrients and activity can influence age-related diseases. They will also look at environmental factors that influence the adoption of health promoting lifestyle changes, do a lifestyle needs assessment, and then evaluate lifestyle interventions that should lead to measurable outcomes.

This research project was funded in part by the East Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Health Outcomes and Policy Evaluation with funds also made available from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Marra is also involved in additional studies that are part of the overall project. She was involved in a pilot project conducted in Harrison County, West Virginia where she was able to assess the use of telenutrition to achieve weight loss and improvements in diets for a group of middle-aged and older men.

The goal for her study was to determine whether patients would be interested in participating in a telenutrition program to include weekly interactions with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for weight loss and then to determine if the program would be more effective than a group who only received diet-related literature.

According to Marra, “The results from the pilot study were encouraging. Results of the study showed that 70 percent of patients in the intervention group had lost at least 5 percent of their body weight as compared to 40 percent of those in the control group.  Because of the support from the doctors in the community, we had enough interest in the program that we ended up with a waiting list.”

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