2008 Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement

Carole A. Davis

Led the development of federal dietary guidelines and the establishment of the popular MyPyramid.gov website.

There is growing concern in America about rising health care costs. Annual spending on health care now exceeds $2 trillion in the United States, up from $714 billion in 1990. Increases in the cost of insurance premiums have dramatically outpaced growth in wages and growth in the economy as a whole. Furthermore, about 30 percent of adults and 25 percent of children are considered obese today. Policymakers and health officials are engaged in a heated debate about how to respond to this crisis, but one answer that virtually everyone agrees should be part of the solution is improved preventative care. A key part of getting Americans to lead healthier lives is getting them to choose healthier diets. No one in our country is doing more to improve the physical health of Americans by promoting better eating habits than Carole Davis. She literally sets the standards for what Americans should be eating, and the MyPyramid.gov website that she helped create has empowered millions of people to lead healthier lives.

Davis has worked for nearly 40 years to educate the American public about proper diet and nutrition. In the 1970s, she began at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in a program to help consumers understand how to prepare food for a healthy diet. Three decades later, as the Director of Nutrition Promotion at USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, she has a leadership role setting the dietary guidelines for our nation.

Davis is responsible for much of the easily accessible nutrition information that many Americans have come to take for granted. She has managed programs that used sound science to develop recommended daily amounts of food, and has worked hard to spread the word using state-of-the art technology.

The prime vehicle Davis currently uses to educate the public about health matters is the MyPyramid.gov website. The interactive site allows consumers to enter their daily food intake and get suggestions on healthy meal plans and appropriate portion sizes. MyPyramid.gov was launched in April 2005 following the release of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Since that time, the site has had more than 4.7 billion online hits, and about 65 percent of users indicate that they apply it to their food choices.

As impressive as building such a popular website is, building consensus among disparate parties about the nutrition guidelines for an entire nation is an even more inspiring feat. Over the past 20 years, Davis, as senior nutritionist or Co-Executive Secretary, has facilitated the work of Federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees. The Committees served the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services by developing guidelines that are the basis for federal nutrition policy and a number of programs including the school lunch program, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and the food stamp program.

As the Chair of the Dietary Guidance Working Group, Davis coordinates nine participating USDA agencies to use the Dietary Guidelines in ensuring the federal government speaks with one voice regarding nutrition education materials. Working as a team, the group reviews print materials, websites and other forms of nutrition guidance to ensure the messages are uniform, appropriate for intended audiences and are supported by the official federal guidelines.

Our government can’t make the American people lead healthier lives, but it can help them do it. And for the past four decades, no federal employee has done more to help the American people eat healthier foods than Carole Davis.