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Nutrition Informatics Blog

Informatics "Light"

(What is Nutrition Informatics) Permanent link   All Posts

For those of us on the ADA Nutrition Informatics Committee (or its predecessor, the Nutrition Informatics Work Group), responding to the question, “What is informatics?” is a regular occurrence.  My December 2008 President’s Page in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association addressed this question and emphasized the importance and relevance of informatics for everyone who practices nutrition and dietetics. 

Since we still get asked the question, though, the need for an “elevator speech” was apparent.  If any of you have ever worked with the media, you know that “short & sweet” is always preferred, and more likely to be remembered by the listener.

That being said, the Nutrition Informatics Committee last weekend approved a new “simple definition” for nutrition informatics proposed by Committee member, Dr. Nancy Collins: 

The intersection of information, nutrition, and technology

 … just a few words that go a long way in terms of explaining what nutrition informatics is all about.   The Committee also refined the formal definition to make it more concise:  “The effective retrieval, organization, storage and optimum use of information, data and knowledge for food and nutrition related problem solving and decision making.  Informatics is supported by the use of information standards, processes and technology.”

It’s OK if you can’t remember the formal definition, and yes, it really is more concise than the original – but let’s all commit the new simple definition to memory, so we’re all ready to respond when asked!

I would add something to the effect that information, nutrition and technology knowledge are nothing without the clinician. In his fundamental theorem of informatics, published in JAMIA earlier this year, Charles Friedman got at that concept by describing a conceptual framework that says that informatics involves the use of computers and technology with the intent of "improving" or "facilitating" the clinician in practice.
Posted by: Ivonne Cueva_1 at 9/28/2010 12:31 PM

I couldn't agree more. Your reference is great and one that I wish showed up more often. Along the same lines as your comment, I also think we cannot leave out "communication." Even the best information has little value unless it is communicated effectively. Thanks for your comment!
Posted by: Lindsey Hoggle at 9/28/2010 7:35 PM

Love the simple yet catchy phrase for what nutrition informatics is all about. Can't wait to try it out when people ask me what NI is.

Keep up the good work!

Peggy Turner, MS, RD/LD
Posted by: Ivonne Cueva_1 at 10/4/2010 4:09 PM

Thanks, Peggy! The Nutrition Informatics Committee did great work in keeping a detailed definition, yet making a short one we could all remember. Let us know how it works!
Posted by: Ivonne Cueva_1 at 10/12/2010 8:01 AM

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