Website to provide important family nutritional information

The Virginia Department of Health has awarded James Madison University a $3.4 million grant to produce content and design for an interactive website full of nutrition information for children and their families.

The future “Health Bites” site is primarily designed to assure success of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) by providing easy-to-understand nutrition information based on the most up-to-date research, according to Dr. Rhonda M. Zingraff, associate dean of the JMU’s College of Integrated Science and Technology and director of the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services. Once available online through the VDH, the site also will benefit the general public by explaining nutrition topics via short video clips and text.

The versatility of the multimedia approach allows groups as well as individuals to learn about important nutrition topics, such as the benefits of breastfeeding and strategies for avoiding childhood obesity, Zingraff said. For example, a WIC counselor could screen specific topics on the site with a group of people for discussion and then provide hard copies of the script for easy reference at home. “Health Bites,” which will be completed in three years, will be available in English and Spanish languages.

The agreement with the VDH is the largest one-time contract award JMU has ever received through Sponsored Programs. The three-year grant will support content development by JMU faculty within the disciplines of dietetics, pediatric nursing, social work and adult education. Working with VDH, they will consolidate their knowledge of current research and literature for topical scripts and engaging activities that local actors, including health care professionals, will communicate as important information to online audiences.

Professionals in the College of Education and at the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services will design and produce the Web site, including the educational video components. The “Health Bites” grant was awarded to JMU following the university’s successful work on the VDH’s new Web site about child health and development. The electronic version of Bright Futures Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children and Adolescents was produced in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics and JMU. The site is available at

“Health Bites” is planned as “a nutrition information site that will hopefully become a model for public health information,” Zingraff said.

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