Nutrition Education Subcommittee
The NIH Nutrition Education Subcommittee (NES), a subcommittee of the NIH Nutrition Coordinating Committee, reviews nutrition education materials that contain dietary guidance for the general population. A Congressional mandate for reviews of these materials was enacted in 1990 to ensure that nutrition education materials produced by Federal agencies are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) and that all agencies within the Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Agriculture (USDA) are consistent in regard to nutrition information and advice.
The NES reviews nutrition education materials in several formats including printed and electronic media such as brochures and fact sheets, web pages, videos, and audio format messages that are intended for the general public. Information materials and resources that are intended for nutrition or medical professionals, or intended for use in treating patients (i.e., materials that might be given to a patient from a physician or a dietitian), and materials that are regulatory in nature (e.g., FDA regulations) are excluded from NES reviews. For more information about NES review process, timeline, and forms, please see specific questions and answers below.
- Why do NIH nutrition education materials need to be reviewed?
- What materials should be reviewed?
- What materials are exempt from review?
- How do I determine if a review is needed?
- What is the NIH Nutrition Education Subcommittee (NES)?
- What does the NES do?
- How are reviews for NIH materials conducted?
- How are reviews for non-NIH materials conducted?
- What instructions are given to the NES members when they review materials?
- Checklist and instructions for submitting NIH materials to the NES.
- How long does the review process take?
- Did the dietary guidance review process change when the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) were released?
- Are there any good resources for authors to use when preparing dietary guidance materials for the general public?
Why do NIH nutrition education materials need to be reviewed?
Since 1990, there has been a Congressional mandate for joint U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) review of nutrition education materials to be sure that these materials are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) and to be sure that agencies within DHHS and USDA speak with one voice with regard to nutrition information and advice.
The Congressional mandate for the review process is found in Title III of the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 (PL 101-445). There is also a 1994 Memorandum of Understanding between USDA and DHHS entitled, “General Procedures for Review of Dietary Guidance for the General Population or Identified Population Subgroups,” which details the review process and explains how the two Departments will work together to conduct the reviews.
What materials should be reviewed?
The Congressional mandate for the review process states that materials containing “dietary guidance for the general population or identified population subgroups” need to go through the review process, and the materials to be reviewed include “nutrition education materials (documents, brochures, fact sheets, web pages, videos, audios) intended for the general public.”
What materials are exempt from review?
Materials that do not require review include reports or papers intended for nutrition or medical professionals, materials that are intended specifically as patient treatment (i.e., materials that might be given to a patient from a physician or a dietitian), or materials that are regulatory in nature (e.g., FDA regulations).
How do I determine if a review is needed?
The following 3 questions may be used to identify the materials that require either a full or expedited review by the NIH Nutrition Education Subcommittee (NES):
QUESTION #1: Do the materials (includes print, electronic, audio, or video formats) contain (1) dietary guidance (i.e., information about types of foods, food groups, and/or nutrients that should be consumed per meal or on a daily or weekly basis and/or information about the amount of foods or food groups to be consumed per meal or daily or weekly); and/or (2) information about topics covered in the DGAs such as obesity, weight management, diet-related chronic diseases, or alcohol consumption?
- If the answer to QUESTION 1 is NO, the materials do not require a review.
- If the answer is YES, proceed to QUESTION 2.
QUESTION #2: Can the materials be classified as papers or reports for nutrition or medical professionals, materials intended specifically for patients, or regulatory materials?
- If the answer to QUESTION 2 is YES, the materials do not require A review.
- If the answer is NO, proceed to QUESTION 3.
QUESTION #3: Have the information and messages in the materials been previously cleared by the NIH Nutrition Education Subcommittee (NES) and joint DHHS/USDA review groups?
- If the answer is YES, you may request an expedited review. The expedited reviews will involve only the NES Chair and the DHHS/USDA review group Chairs. When requesting an expedited review, please provide the following: 1) the name of the previously approved materials, 2) dates of the NES and joint DHHS/USDA reviews, 3) a copy of the new materials, and 4) a copy of the previously approved materials or a website link where they may be found. If the request for an expedited review is denied, the materials must go through the regular review process.
- If the answer to Question 3 is NO, you should request an NES review.
If you are still unclear about the need for NES and joint DHHS/USDA reviews, contact the NES Chair (Margaret.McDowell@nih.gov ) and discuss the content and need for review. Early-stage materials may be submitted to the NES Chair with a request for a decision about the need for review. In some instances, the NES Chair will consult with the DNRC Director and the joint DHHS/USDA review Chairs about the need for review. Additionally, press releases, media spots, and marketing materials may require review if they contain dietary guidance information.
What is the NIH Nutrition Education Subcommittee (NES)?
The NIH Nutrition Education Subcommittee (NES) is a subcommittee of the NIH Nutrition Coordinating Committee (NCC). The NCC was established in 1975 to provide an NIH-wide forum to review, promote, and support nutrition research and training in the prevention and treatment of disease. Dr. Van Hubbard, Director of the Division of Nutrition Research Coordination (DNRC), currently chairs the NCC. The NCC has members and alternates from most NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICs) as well as liaisons from other Government agencies.
The NES serves as a focal point for the review of nutrition education publications and related materials for the public. The NES is composed of NIH personnel who have expertise in the nutritional sciences. In terms of its membership, broad representation is sought from as many of the 27 NIH ICs as possible because the NES reviews a wide range of nutrition education materials that target diverse population groups.
The current NES roster is composed of 12 members from 8 ICs: Rosalind Breslow (NIAAA), Amber Courville (CC), Mary Evans (NIDDK), Rachel Fisher, (DNRC), Carol Haggans (ODS), Crystal McDade-Ngutter (DNRC), Margaret McDowell, Chair (DNRC), Kathryn McMurry (NHLBI), Dan Raiten (NICHD), and Elaine Trujillo (NCI). Oversight for the NES reviews is provided by the DNRC Director and Deputy Director. Additional NIH expertise from NCC members may be requested on an as needed basis (e.g., the National Institute on Aging has been consulted about materials for aging populations, and the National Institute on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has been consulted about materials on osteoporosis.)
What does the NES do?
The NES reviews nutrition education materials (includes publications, websites, video scripts, brochures, etc.) that are intended for the general population or specific population subgroups. The purpose of the NES reviews is to ensure the scientific and technical accuracy of the information in the materials and consistency with the DGAs. The NES performs two main functions:
- The NES provides initial reviews of NIH nutrition education materials for cross-agency input and facilitates the joint DHHS/USDA review of these materials, and
- The NES is included in the DHHS/USDA joint review process. The NES also reviews nutrition education materials prepared by several other DHHS agencies and USDA agencies.
On average, the NES reviews about 30 submissions per year. In addition to the materials that fall within the purview of the NES, the NES may be asked to review NIH nutrition materials that are developed for patients and health professionals.
The NES Chair posts web links to NIH nutrition education materials on the DNRC website (http://dnrc.nih.gov). NCC members are asked to review and update these links annually. A detailed description of the NES and joint DHHS/USDA review processes is provided in the following citation: Pennington JAT and Hubbard VS. Nutrition education materials from the National Institutes of Health: Development, review, and availability. J Nutr Ed 2002; 34:53-58.
- After clearance through the initiating NIH ICU, the materials (or the nutrition components of the materials) are submitted to the NES Chair.
The Chair forwards the materials the NES with a request for a dietary guidance review. The material is accompanied by a background document or coversheet describing the material, the intended target audience, means of dissemination, and any research or preliminary testing using the material (when applicable). A 2-section comments template form is also provided for the NES reviewers to note their comments. In most cases, the NES reviewers have two weeks to complete their review of the material.
NES reviewer comments are grouped into Section 1 or Section 2 categories. Section 1 comments must be addressed by the authors as they consist of scientific or technical inaccuracies, and inconsistencies with the DGA recommendations. Section 2 comments are optional in nature and include reviewer comments and suggestions to improve the clarity and completeness of the material, editorial errors that might be missed, format suggestions to improve readability, and other constructive feedback.
The NES Chair prepares a summary report based on the comments received and returns it to the authors for their review and follow-up action. The NES Chair will request that Section 1 comments be addressed and that the authors review other suggestions provided by the reviewers. The Chair will work with the authors to prepare a revised draft of the material. Once the Section 1 comments are addressed satisfactorily, the NES Chair will forward the material for a joint DHHS/USDA review through the Chair of the DHHS Nutrition Policy Board (NPB) Committee on Dietary Guidance (CDG). The joint HHS/USDA review process takes three to four weeks to complete. As with the NES review, a summary report listing Section 1 and Section 2 comments is sent to the NES Chair and, if the material originated within NIH, the initiating NIH IC author too.
In summary, the NES review of NIH materials and the joint HHS/USDA reviews are important to NIH and the federal nutrition committee speaks with one voice with regard to nutrition education and dietary guidance. The NES review provides a mechanism for NIH experts in nutrition and health to review and comment on NIH nutrition education and dietary guidance materials. The joint review process is a more encompassing review by which HHS and USDA nutrition professionals can exchange information and communicate on dietary guidance matters.
- Materials developed by other DHHS agencies and by USDA agencies are submitted to the NES Chair from the Chair of the DHHS NPBCDG. (Note: The NES serves as a member of the NPBCDG along with representatives from other DHHS agencies.)
- The NES Chair emails the materials to the NES members for comment within a two-week time frame.
- The NES Chair compiles the comments received from the NES reviewers and sends a summary report to the Chair of the DHHS NPBCDG.
- Comments from NES and other members of the DHHS NPBCDG are compiled and merged with comments from the USDA DGWG and sent to the initiating party for review and action, when indicated.
- Record all comments on the NES Comments form (provided) rather than the document itself.
- When noting comments, clearly identify the page, paragraph, and sentence or line numbers for the statement or words of concern; when indicated the specific wording used in a section can be included in the comments to clarify the location.
- For each comment, indicate the specific issue or concern. When possible, offer a suggestion such as a text revision, correction, insertion, or deletion.
- For Section 1 comments, identify inconsistencies with the DGAs with a double asterisk and scientific/technical inaccuracies with a single asterisk. Both types of comments must be corrected by the author before the material can be forwarded for joint DHHS/USDA review and publication. Any other comments (Section 2) noted by the NES will be assumed to be suggestions to the authors and action on such comments is optional.
- If the materials provide web links for additional information, you are not required to go into web links and review the materials found there. NES comments related to whether or not a link works and the accuracy of the information in the link will be forwarded to the author. If the links are non-government sites, the authors should indicate to the user that he/she is leaving a government website.
- Have the materials been cleared by the initiating NIH IC?
- Have the materials been reviewed by a nutritionist or dietitian within the IC who is knowledgeable of the DGAs and understands their application to materials for the population and subpopulations?
- Have the materials been proofread for scientific and technical accuracy; for grammar, spelling, and for use with the intended target audience?
- Are the pages of the materials that are for review numbered?
- If the materials are web-based, create a Microsoft Word version and number the pages.
- If the materials include information that is in the domain of another IC, it is advisable to have someone in the other IC review the materials prior to submission for NES review to insure interagency consistency and agreement.
- Send the materials electronically to the NES Chair (Margaret.McDowell@nih.gov ) with a cover page (email note) that includes the following information:
- Name of document/materials:
- Originating NIH IC (Institute, Center, Division, Office)
- Contact person, email address, phone number
- Date of submission
- Intended audience (include age, gender, race-ethnicity group and reading level if appropriate)
- Means of dissemination. Please describe and list all of the methods to disseminate the material (e.g. printed material, website release, video, and so forth)
- Background research/focus-group testing that supports the materials. Please provide references and/or descriptions of the formative research, usability testing, pretests, evaluation studies that were conducted using the proposed material.
When an expedited/concurrent review is requested, please note the reason(s) for the request. For example, time constraints (e.g., an urgent publication deadline to use available funds, or an Agency or Departmental release of materials is planned at an upcoming conference) might necessitate an expedited review.
If previously cleared material is updated, it may be handled as an expedited or concurrent review. Please be sure to provide the name of the previous materials, dates of NES and joint DHHS/USDA reviews, a copy of the new materials, and a copy of the previous materials or the website link where they may be found.
How long does the review process take?
Reviews are usually completed in two steps. The first step, the NES review takes approximately two weeks. The second review step—the joint DHHS/USDA review usually requires three to four weeks time.
Two exceptions to this time table are “Expedited Reviews” and “Concurrent Reviews” of updated materials previously cleared or very brief material. Depending on the length, Expedited Reviews are usually completed in 1 to 5 days. Concurrent Reviews usually require 2 to 4 weeks depending on the amount of content to review.
Did the dietary guidance review process change when the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) were released?
No. The 2-stage review process for NIH materials has not changed. The review process begins with the NES review. When appropriate, expedited or concurrent reviews may be performed.
Are there any good resources for authors to use when preparing dietary guidance materials for the general public?
Yes, several excellent resources are available. Initially, authors should review the DGA recommendations prior to writing the content of the dietary guidance materials to familiarize themselves with the recommendations and Key Messages that are provided. It is very important that the dietary guidance messages be scientifically accurate and consistent with the latest DGA recommendations. Additionally, an important goal of the dietary guidance communication campaign undertaken by federal agency partners is to communicate the DGA recommendations to consumers using straightforward and actionable messages.
Materials that have already been through the review process are posted on the DNRC and other federal websites listed below. These materials may be helpful when preparing new dietary guidance materials and nutrition education materials. In addition to the actual DGA recommendations focusing on what to say, there are excellent health communications resources to help writers to write materials for individuals with low health literacy and reading ability and for persons with different cultural backgrounds and customs.
The following web-based resources are helpful to authors:
The DGA policy document that summarizes the science underpinning the DGA recommendations is posted on the following website: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDoc.pdf
The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy Promotion developed ChooseMyPlate.gov as a comprehensive resource to communicate the DGAs to the public. Numerous fact sheets, interactive tools to monitor food and nutrient intakes and physical activity, recipes, and guides for healthy eating on are posted on the site. Link: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
The HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion health communication initiative produced many helpful resources improve health communication and health literacy. The link for the site is: http://health.gov/communication/resources/
This page last reviewed: April 17, 2012