An assessment of dietary diversity and nutrition knowledge of student nurses at the KwaZulu-Natal College of Nursing
Wirth, Janet Dorothy
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South Africa has a high prevalence of obesity, and many people live with diseases where dietary adaptations are part of the management of the disease. Nurses are important in the facilitation of people obtaining dietary advice. While nutrition education is part of the nursing curriculum, student nurses’ knowledge of nutrition was not known, nor was their dietary intake and nutritional health status. The purpose of the study was to assess the nutrition knowledge of students at a nursing college, and to assess their dietary diversity. A quantitative study was used, with random sampling chosen for selection of campuses and convenience sampling for student group selection. Students of the KwaZulu-Natal College of Nursing were invited to complete a General Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire. A Food Frequency Questionnaire was completed to assess dietary diversity, and respondents’ anthropometric measurements were recorded to assess Body Mass Index and Waist to Height Ratio. The results showed that a significant percentage of student nurses were overweight or obese. While students had a satisfactory knowledge of dietary recommendations and sources of different nutrients, their ability to make correct food choices, as well as their knowledge of diet-disease relationships was poor. They displayed good dietary diversity in their food intake. There were no statistically significant correlations between the students’ Body Mass Index and their knowledge, which assumes that the individual’s knowledge of nutrition does not directly influence their own food intake. It is recommended that aspects of the content in the nutrition curriculum be emphasised during the training of nurses in order to increase nutrition awareness in areas where knowledge was found to be lacking.