Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) doctoral student Ms. Caroline Glagola Dunn (Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina) recently won both a Citation Abstract Award and a Meritorious Student Abstract Award for her research abstract, Dietary Guidance System Utilization and Dietary Choice among American Adults. The awards were given by the Society of Behavioral Medicine at their 2016 Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions in March.
[Photo: Ms. Caroline Glagola Dunn]
Ms. Dunn’s abstract was unique in that it presented null results from a study. Working with collaborators Ms. Alisha Gaines (Cornell University) and Ms. Kim Stran (University of Alabama), she used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine if individuals who used the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPyramidPlan guidance system (now the MyPlatePlan) had intake that differed from individuals who did not use the dietary guidance system available to them. They also compared whether individuals from these two groups met USDA dietary intake recommendations. The only significant difference they found between the groups was that the group who reported using the MyPyramid guidance system had a significantly lower intake of saturated fat than those who did not use the guidance.
“I think it’s important to be able to explain how a null finding can be as important and impactful as significant results, and I was fortunate to work with Drs. Gaines and Stran who helped me shape this abstract in a way that communicated the meaningfulness of the null data,” she says. “We also found that many individuals were not using the USDA plans available for them, and that many had never heard of the tools. This tells us that more attention should be paid to utilization of national dietary guidance systems, and health professionals should strive to further understand and describe characteristics of individuals who utilize dietary guidance systems as this will play an important role in the design and tailoring of future guidance.”
Her focus on applied research will serve Ms. Dunn well as she continues taking steps toward her future career in academia. “I’d like to conduct meaningful research, teach and work closely with undergraduate and graduate students, and participate in service activities through cooperative extension or public health outreach,” says Ms. Dunn, who has a concentration in nutrition programming and promotion within her HPEB program. “I hope to use my degree to work in interdisciplinary teams to help improve the health of individuals and communities.”
“Caroline has really hit the ground running since she came to USC just last fall,” says mentor and HPEB assistant professor Dr. Brie Turner-McGrievy, who leads the Behavioral Research in Eating (BRIE) Lab where Ms. Dunn is a research member. “It’s clear that she’s already being recognized for her hard work and dedication to the field of public health.”