Feeding healthy hearts – evaluating the Impact of nutrition education in cardiac rehabilitation programs

Ms Janet NashKatie Belobrajdic1

1Northern Adelaide Local Health Network, Adelaide, Australia

Background: The cardiac rehabilitation program has been conducted in Northern Adelaide Local Health Network for a number of years. The Dietitian facilitates two sessions within the six-week program.

Method: In 2017 a new evaluation tool was developed, trialled and implemented within the program. The tool enables the collection of data from participants with respect to their ‘intention to change’ various aspects of their diet and lifestyle, at the conclusion of the two nutrition sessions.

Results: Ninety-one participants completed the evaluation involving 10 statements between May 2017 and December 2017. In all statements, with the exception of one, there were statistically significant changes between pre and post scores showing a strong intention to change within a number of lifestyle and dietary categories.

Discussion: The highly statistically significant change pre and post sessions for almost all statements demonstrated that attending the nutrition sessions had a positive impact on participants confidence in eating healthy food, knowledge in reading food labels, self-perceived importance of healthy eating, ability to make healthier food choices and intention to include healthy foods in their diet. The smallest change in pre and post scores was for the question ‘I know the portion sizes of healthier food I should be eating’. Though there was an improvement from the average pre and post scores, it was not statistically significant. An additional activity was added to the nutrition sessions to increase comprehension in this area. Evaluation of the nutrition component of the cardiac rehabilitation program continues with the use of the intention to change tool allowing ongoing monitoring of participant outcomes. In 2019, facilitators plan to evaluate improvements in participant’s knowledge of portion sizes following the implementation of changes to activities provided on this topic in 2018.


Janet Nash is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian. She holds university qualifications in Applied Science (Human Movement), Nutrition and Dietetics and a graduate certificate in Diabetes Management and Education through the Flinders University. She has worked in community health and clinical dietetics in both rural and metropolitan settings for the past 14 years and is currently employed as a Dietitian within the Intermediate Care Services Team within the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network. Her role in this team involves the provision of group and individual dietary counselling services to clients with chronic disease including diabetes, cardiac and respiratory which aims to assist in the prevention of avoidable hospital presentations and admissions.

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