Background on Group Education
What are group education strategies?
- Through group education interventions, trained nutrition instructors or facilitators (e.g., dietitians, health educators) provide information and resources as part of group interactions to increase knowledge, skills and support related to increasing consumption of nutritious foods.
- Group education interventions may include presentations as well as individual or group activities that occur in classrooms (e.g., schools, colleges or universities), community centers, WIC clinics, recreational facilities, worksites and other desired locations. Guided by a detailed nutrition curriculum, these interventions can:
- highlight the association between what we eat and health outcomes (e.g., fat intake and obesity),
- promote behavioral change (e.g., purchase foods with less sugar; eat more fruits and vegetables),
- improve knowledge and skills related to the benefits of nutritious foods (e.g., increased energy, weight loss) and challenges with making lifestyle changes (e.g., skill-building for healthy food preparation), and
- influence social support or group norms (e.g., sharing recipes or strategies for overcoming challenges).
How does group education impact nutrition-related behaviors?
- For many individuals, the group is a natural setting. People are often taught in groups, live in groups and play in groups. Social interaction can be a key aspect of the developmental process as individuals learn by observing others and the results of their actions. Therefore, group education interventions can be most effective if they take into consideration both individual characteristics (e.g., knowledge, skills) and group circumstances (e.g., social norms, peer pressure). For example, it may be more helpful to have different group members talk about how eating more nutritious foods and establishing healthy eating patterns has helped them feel better physically and mentally, as opposed to simply describing the relationship between nutrition and health.
How can I use group education strategies in my nutrition intervention?
- Group education interventions may be incorporated into existing education interventions (e.g., health education classes in schools, cooking classes at a local grocery store) or held independently.
- Group education can be designed to meet the needs of general audiences or specific groups (e.g., “targeted messages”). For example, the group education interventions can address the special needs of populations with particular health concerns (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease), adolescent girls (e.g., basic identity questions, peer pressure), or those who prepare foods for others (e.g., school cafeteria staff).
What type of group education is best for my nutrition intervention?
- There are many different kinds of group interactions that serve various purposes:
- Groups set up primarily for prevention (i.e., education or skills training to encourage nutritious eating patterns such as reducing consumption of fat, sugar, or sodium and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, or fiber in order to minimize risk of disease and disability).
- Groups concerned with specific health conditions and their improvement (i.e., education or skills training to help individuals with various health conditions such as obesity, arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes to lose or maintain weight, balance important nutrients, or avoid specific types of foods).
- Groups related to general life adjustments, self-management, and lifestyle (i.e., education or skills training to increase individual’s capacity to consume nutritious foods as part of daily or weekly routines such as minimizing fast food intake, providing fruit and vegetable snacks, preparing foods with nutritious ingredients, or reducing portion sizes).
- Groups with other quality of life concerns such as improved appearance (e.g., weight, acne), increased athletic performance (e.g., training for a marathon), or spiritual beliefs (e.g., connection between physical, mental and spiritual health).
With whom do I need to work to develop a group education strategy for my nutrition intervention?
- To develop your group education intervention, you will need to work with experienced health educators. Other useful partners may include senior centers/independent living facilities, community centers, community organizations, coalitions, schools, worksites, health departments, researchers, community members, and community leaders.