Nutrition-related knowledge, beliefs and practices of Australian nursing staff


  • M. Nowak, PhD, APD, Research Fellow
    S. Harrison, PhD, MPH, Principal Research Fellow
    L. Hutton, B Psych, Research Officer

M. Nowak, Skin Cancer Research Group, School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences within the North Queensland Centre for Cancer Research, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia. Email:


Objective:  The purpose of the study was to examine the general food and nutrition-related beliefs and knowledge of nursing professionals attending post-partum women.

Design:  Data were collected by self-administered questionnaire.

Subjects:  Three hundred and sixty-two hospital-based nursing staff responsible for the care of post-parturient women.

Setting:  Eight metropolitan and regional hospitals in Queensland and three maternity hospitals in Canberra.

Main outcome measures:  Beliefs, opinions and intentions relating to food, nutrition and weight; knowledge of requirements of core foods; and sources of nutrition information.

Statistical analysis:  Standard statistical tests were used to measure frequencies and assess bivariate relationships.

Results:  Almost all participants (97.8%) were confident they could give good advice to their patients about a healthy balanced diet. The majority (65.5%) reported providing such advice at least weekly, 27.9% daily, and 19.5% rarely or never gave nutritional advice. The food-related beliefs of most participants (>85%) were in line with current knowledge for 78% of questions. However, their knowledge of core food requirements for adults was inadequate; only 0.6% gave correct answers to all four food intake questions, 16.8% gave three correct answers, 62% two and 20.7% one correct answer. The most commonly cited sources of nutrition information were professional training (51.4%), reading (38.7%), media (14.9%), self-education and work-related experience (10.8%), dietitian (10.5%), school (7.5%), family (6.4%) and dieting (5.0%).

Conclusion:  Nursing staff frequently provide nutritional advice to post-partum women. There is a need to ensure such information is accurate. Further research should explore ways in which this can be achieved.