One hundred years ago, Martha Van Rensselaer drove throughout upstate New York to bring information about nutrition and hygiene to rural farm wives. Today, Christina Stark, extension associate in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, uses a 21st century means of delivering extension education; she is using the Internet to connect nutrition professionals throughout the nation and the world with current research in their field, which ultimately benefits the people they serve. Stark is the program leader for Cornell NutritionWorks, an interactive web site that offers professional development to nutrition and health practitioners, including Cornell Cooperative Extension nutritionists serving residents throughout New York State. The web site (www.nutritionworks.cornell.edu) uses distance technology to provide a variety of continuing education opportunities for the target audience. Cornell NutritionWorks members can interact with Cornell faculty through an Ask the Nutrition Expert feature, access cutting-edge nutrition information, download resources and tools that enhance practice, participate in discussion forums with peers, and take online self-assessments for continuing professional education units. In addition, the web site offers the latest nutrition research from the Division of Nutritional Sciences, recommends links, and has a complete reference center.
"NutritionWorks was developed to meet the needs of community practitioners who feel professionally isolated, who want to keep up to date with the latest research-based nutrition information, who want to interact with researchers and peers, and who don't have the time or funds to travel for continuing education," Stark explains.
Membership in Cornell NutritionWorks became free in 2004, and new members can register easily online. To date, there are more than 2,400 members, who come from all 50 states and 46 countries.
At the moment, over 20 topics designed to provide continuing education credit are available. The presenters are predominately faculty members within the Division of Nutritional Sciences; Stark has also featured experts from institutions outside of Cornell. For example, some of the newest offerings will include audio-visual cyber-presentations of invited speakers who participated in Cornell's Ecology of Obesity conference in June 2005. These include James Hill from the University of Colorado on obesity and energy balance, James Sallis from San Diego State University on obesity and the built environment, and Penny Gordon-Larsen from the University of North Carolina on socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in obesity. Plans are underway to make additional resources and materials resulting from the Ecology of Obesity conference available on Cornell NutritionWorks.
If a member chooses to take an offering for continuing professional education credit, the charge is $15 per credit, which can be paid online. A certificate of completion is instantly available, and each member's progress is tracked with a personalized transcript. Cornell NutritionWorks is a Commission on Dietetic Registration Accredited Provider. The offerings for credit cover a spectrum of subjects--such as childhood obesity, low-carbohydrate diets, regulation of genetically engineered foods, trans fatty acids, and infant formulas. …