Making Change Through Advocacy

A Community Connection

A Community Connection

A Community Connection

Suzanne Domel Baxter, PhD, RD, LD, FADA

Making Change Happen

Dr. Suzanne Baxter wants to improve the accuracy of dietary research by “changing how researchers do their research.” A research professor in the Institute for Families in Society at USC, Dr. Baxter focuses on methodological research concerning the accuracy of children's dietary recalls and on childhood obesity and nutrition. Created in the early 1990s, the Institute conducts interdisciplinary research to reduce child abuse, strengthen families and communities, and improve the health of vulnerable child and adult populations.

“Science progresses to the degree to which its instruments are precise,” Dr. Baxter said. “By looking at methods we use, we can change them to get more accurate information.” Some of Dr. Baxter’s recent studies explored the consistency of children’s accuracy in recalling what they’ve eaten and whether recall accuracy changes because of various factors, such as time of interview or how the questions are asked. For her, if researchers know the most accurate methodologies, they’ll have a more accurate understanding of child nutrition issues.

Dr. Baxter also seeks to make lasting change through the Amy Joye Memorial Research Fund, which gives research grants in fields such as obesity prevention, dietary assessment, and gardening. Dr. Baxter led the effort to create this fund established through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation in honor of her former nutrition research project director, who suffered a medical tragedy.

Research Background

Trained as a Registered Dietitian and a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Nutrition, Dr. Baxter conducts methodological research to investigate the accuracy of children's dietary recalls. Her research includes validation studies to compare observations of children eating school breakfast and school lunch to dietary intake reported by children during interviews, and then assesses children’s accuracy for recalling school-meal intake. By manipulating various aspects of the interview procedures, Dr. Baxter has identified methods that improve accuracy such as reporting-order prompts, interview modality, interview format, and retention interval. Different aspects of children's dietary recall accuracy have been investigated, including body mass index, social desirability, food security, and consistency of accuracy over multiple recalls. Dr. Baxter also conducts research concerning a possible relationship between childhood obesity and participation in school meals.

Suzi Baxter
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