Findings from the RNECE initiative.
Twenty-eight (28) projects were conducted. They included research directed to both regionally-determined and national priorities and the merging of real-world programmatic situations with applied research rigor. Findings from the RNECE initiative can help inform EFNEP and SNAP-Ed implementing agencies, the scientific community, and the general public.
Research projects included:
- Differences in program size, urban/rural settings, race, ethnicity, cultural contexts, and target audience.
- Testing use of direct education, social media, and policy, systems and environmental change approaches through face-to-face contacts and texting, smartphone based eLearning, and other online learning venues.
- Participatory research that empowers school children and engages youth leaders, grocers and store owners, healthcare systems, and faith-based and other community leaders and organizations in multi-component interventions.
- Secondary data analysis and case-controlled studies to assess program effectiveness and current evaluation methods.
Synergy within the initiative was achieved through a commitment to cooperation and collaboration. The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provided joint funding and oversight. Grantees reached out to all states/territories in their geographic regions - and beyond, to program implementation and research interests, and to government, education, health, business, and other sectors. The also worked with each other to:
- embrace stakeholder research interests;
- enhance dissemination of research findings, tools, and resources; and
- ensure rapid adoption by end users.
Several grantees have maintained active websites to further develop and disseminate resources.
- Northeastern Region: Cornell University
- Southern Region: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change (PSE) Center: University of Tennessee
Products and Outcomes
Examples of resources available and insights gained from the RNECE initiate follow. To learn more about all that was achieved and is available, see the grantees' final reports.
- The RNECE National Coordination Center played a key role in achieving coordination and cooperation among RNECE projects, and aggregating and synthesizing findings. This Center, which completed its work ahead of the other Centers, compiled a report of progress to date for the work of all Centers. See the RNECE National Coordination Center Final Report. The remaining centers requested no-cost extensions to complete research was was underway.
- The Southern Regional Center, with the support of the other RNECE Centers, further developed the FNS SNAP-Ed Toolkit and transformed it into an online interactive toolkit that allows program implementers to identify evidence‐based direct education and PSE intervention combinations to provide synergy in promoting behavior change among program participants. See the SNAP-Ed Toolkit on the web. This toolkit is being used by SNAP-Ed implementers and by EFNEP implementers, where appropriate, for incorporating evidence-based strategies into programming. To learn of other interventions and research findings see the final report.
- The Northeastern Regional Center, created Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice, an online course designed to help nutrition educators and other public health professionals gain skills to increase access to healthy food and activity options in communities through policy, systems, and environmental approaches (PSEs). The course provides an introduction for those new to PSE approaches and a more in-depth overview for those with more experience with PSEs. It also connects learners with resources relevant to the specific settings where they work. See the Cornell University website for more information. Other contributions to this body of evidence can be seen in the final report.
- The North Central Regional Center maximized stakeholder involvement in determining regional research priorities. The center convened a multi-state advisory team of faculty and SNAP-Ed/EFNEP implementers who provided guidance on funding priorities, communication strategies, and additional affiliate connections/partnerships among faculty and SNAP-Ed and EFNEP implementers in the region. This advisory committee included SNAP-Ed and/or EFNEP implementers, stakeholders and researchers from every state in the region. See the final report for committee descriptions and regional research findings.
- Several research projects of the Western Regional Center involved rigorous testing of behavioral change indicators. The use of biometric measures to assess long-term change in a feasibility study, validity and reliability testing of new behavioral change indices for adults in EFNEP, and secondary analysis of seven years of EFNEP data led to increased assurance that nutrition education does lead to measurable improvements in health, obesity, nutrition (food behaviors), and physical activity outcomes of interest to USDA, and to the implementation of a new evidence-based behavioral change evaluation instrument. See the executive summary and final report for additional detail on these and other projects.
- The Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) Change Center used a situational analysis of gaps, facilitators, and opportunities to guide training on readiness to change and development of an interactive webpage, psechange.org to support settings-based PSE approaches for SNAP-Ed and EFNEP. The SNAP-Ed integrative map includes video trainings specific to the Eat, Live, Learn, and Play domains of the Evaluation Framework. The EFNEP site supports use of a social ecological approach to implement the US Dietary Guidelines. Specific PSE examples appropriate in EFNEP settings are under development. See the final report for additional detail on supporting research and products developed.
- The RNECE Longitudinal Study included: 1) developing a tool that used retailer grocery purchase data to assess the overall quality of foods families purchased (as opposed to the foods they ate) in terms of ability to promote health; and 2) exploring how well the ASA24, an online diet assessment tool, worked to measure what women with low incomes ate and development of training for paraprofessional nutrition educators on how to use ASA24. See the final report for further details.