Personal digital photography may help to assess dietary quality in people with learning disabilities


A number of studies have looked at difficulties with overweight and underweight in people with learning disabilities. An added challenge is the issue of dietary assessment, where getting accurate information about the diet of people with learning disabilities can be difficult.

The researchers in this study wanted to look at whether  the use of personal digital photography as a method of assessing different aspects of dietary quality was an appropriate and potentially effective method for this group. The researchers in this Swedish study worked with 18 adults with moderate learning disabilities who were living in community residential services or using day activity centres in Stockholm. The adults were asked to photograph all foods and beverages they consumed during a 1 day period while being observed by the researchers. The photographs taken were also coded by two raters.

They found that with staff reminders, 85% of all observed eating or drinking occasions were photographed.. From this small introductory study, the authors conclude that the use of personal digital photography may well be a feasible, reliable and valid method for assessing dietary quality where people are in receipt of daily staff support.

Validation of personal digital photography to assess dietary quality among people with intellectual disabilities, Elinder, L.  Et al., in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56: 221–226.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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