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Nutrition Education and Literacy Laboratory


  • An episode of Figurefacts For Life on WGN radio in Chicago featured lab director Heather Gibbs, Ph.D., RD. She spoke about her research and efforts to improve nutrition literacy as well as other nutrition-related topics such as the connection between diet and prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Listen

  • KU Medical Center News: A KU Medical Center researcher has created a nutrition literacy tool designed to assess the health knowledge. Read

Nutrition information can be difficult for anyone to understand, and many people struggle to make healthy food choices. The Nutrition Education and Literacy Laboratory conducts research that focuses on the challenges of nutrition literacy, or the capacity to understand and act upon nutrition information.

In addition, the lab partners with educators and researchers in other disciplines at the University of Kansas to deliver interprofessional education and research this emerging teaching methodology as part of KU's dietetic internship curriculum.

Nutrition Literacy Projects

Gibbs' 2013 pilot study to adapt her nutrition literacy assessment instrument (NLit) for the breast cancer population found relationships between nutrition literacy and diet quality. [doi: 10.1007/s13187-015-0851-y]

She also partnered with the Maternal and Child Nutrition and Development Laboratory to measure nutrition literacy in parents of children between 4-6 years of age. They found that higher nutrition literacy was associated with better diet quality among children. [doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2016.04.006]

In addition, Gibbs partnered with Paula Cupertino and the Kansas City-based Juntos Center for Advancing Latino Health to translate these concepts into other languages and cultures. [DOI: 10.1007/s10903-017-0678-1]

Gibbs also traveled to Juiz de Fora, Brazil, in 2014 to discuss her ideas of nutrition literacy measurement with researchers, clinicians, and students at Centro HiperDia and the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (Universidade Fedral de Juiz de For a).

Her work to develop an instrument (NLit) for comprehensively measuring nutrition literacy was supported by the NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Development. The tool was found to be valid and reliable in an adult population with nutrition-related chronic disease. [DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2017.10.008.] A copy of the tool can be requested online in print or digital format.

Gibbs's current studies investigate whether nutrition literacy can be improved through nutrition education interventions in both clinic settings and using mobile tools.

Interprofessional Education Projects

As instructor of medical nutrition therapy courses in KU's dietetic internship program, Gibbs partners with members of the Center for Interprofessional Education and Simulation at KU Medical Center to incorporate nutrition in the campus interprofessional education initiatives as well as provide interprofessional experiences for the dietetic student interns.

For her role in these efforts, Gibbs has been designated the "IPE Champion" representing the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition on the School of Health Professions working group created to strengthen and expand interprofessional education.

Last modified: Jul 17, 2019

NLit Study Participation

Nutrition literacy work is ongoing. If you are interested in participating in one of our studies, we would love to connect with you! Please contact us at

photo of Heather Gibbs

Lab Director

Heather Gibbs, Ph.D., RD
Assistant Professor
faculty bio

See also:
American Institute for Cancer Research: AICR blog