Considerations for Using the ASA24® Dietary Assessment Tool

Since the release of a Beta version in 2009, the ASA24 system has been used by thousands of Researchers conducting studies in multiple settings. Through our support of Researchers, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has gained insights into best practices for implementation, as well as common issues encountered by study Respondents.

A key factor in successfully using the ASA24 system is how well study staff who have direct contact with Respondents know the tool themselves. The more facile study staff are with the ASA24 system, the more helpful they can be to Respondents. We recommend that study staff spend a significant amount of time completing multiple ASA24 recalls or records (this can be done using the Demonstration versionExternal Web Site Policy) and in the process, select many different foods, drinks and supplements (if applicable) and use all available actions prior to fielding a study.

Although not essential, if your study design includes in-person contact with Respondents prior to their completion of food recalls or records using the ASA24 system, it can be helpful to orient them to the software through completion of a practice recall or record using the demonstration version in an environment where study staff are available to answer questions.

Common Issues Encountered by Study Respondents

(Note that these issues are also summarized in a Troubleshooting Guide for Study Staff, available from the Resources for Study Staff and Respondents section of this Website.)

  1. Issues getting started
    • Usernames and Passwords: Strong passwords can be difficult for Respondents to remember and to type accurately. They may also misplace or lose usernames and passwords provided to them. Strong but meaningful and easier to remember passwords can be specified by Researchers when setting up user accounts on the Researcher Website. See the Researcher Instructions (2011-12 [PDF]External Web Site Policy, 2014/2016 [PDF - 2.18 MB]), for more information. Researchers can encourage Respondents to copy and paste usernames and passwords from an e-mail with instructions for completing ASA24 food recalls or records.
    • Downloading & Using Silverlight (applies only to versions prior to 2016): The download process can pose a challenge to those Respondents who are less familiar with computers. Written instructions for how to download Silverlight on specific browsers (see Resources for Study Staff and Respondents) can be provided to Respondents. Since Google Chrome stopped supporting Microsoft's Silverlight plug-in in September 2015, ASA24-2014 versions and older cannot be completed using Chrome.
    • Use of Mobile Devices and Smartphone: With the release of ASA24-2016, Respondents can complete ASA24 food recalls or records on all types of mobile devices. However, earlier versions will not run on a smartphone, iPad or other tablet.
  2. Issues Using Software after Login -- 2016 version only
    • Internet Browsers: ASA24-2016 is an HTML5 application and must be used with an HTML5 compatible internet browser. See Web Site Policy for information on compatible browsers by platform and device type.
  3. Issues Using Software after Login - 2014 versions or older only
    • "Freezing": Respondents may report that an ASA24 screen is "frozen." Usually, this is a result of the Respondent not selecting an action that will lead to the next step or task to be completed. This issue most commonly happens at the following transition points:
      • The participant has completed adding foods for a meal and does not know that they need to select "Add a meal or snack" to continue adding more foods or "Done entering all meals and snack" if they have completed recording all foods and beverages consumed. Similarly, in the Supplement module, Respondents need to select "No supplements to report" or "Done entering supplements" to move on.
    • Opening Food Groups and Subgroups: Respondents can either search or browse to find foods they want to report. Browsing food groups and subgroups requires a single click. Some Respondents double click instead which results in food groups quickly opening and closing.
    • Authentication Error Message: This appears if the participant took a break of 30 or more minutes from completing ASA24 food recalls or records. The participant is asked to log back in with their username and password.
    • Unable to Start Tool: If Respondents log in on the wrong day (for scheduled studies only) or try to log back in to an existing recall after the reporting period (24 or 36 hours, depending on option selected by the Researcher) has lapsed, or if they try to log back in for studies for which they are required to complete the tool in one sitting, a message will be displayed. A message will also be displayed when Respondents of unscheduled studies exceed the number of recalls allowed, as defined by the Researcher.
    • Turning Penguin Avatar Off/On: Some Respondents appreciate the instructions provided by the animated penguin, whereas others wish to progress through the ASA24 system without the penguin's guidance. In all versions, the penguin can be turned off completely or the audio only can be turned off. In ASA24-2014, ASA24-Kids-2014, and ASA24-Canada-2014, there is a penguin tool bar that allows access to penguin controls at any time and that allows for penguin instructions to be repeated as desired. In ASA24-2011 and ASA24-Kids-2012, the penguin control options (in the upper right-hand corner of the screen) are not available until after completion of the initial instructions. For all versions, when Respondents log in to complete food recalls using the ASA24 system within 30 days of a prior visit to the site using the same user name, the option to turn the penguin on or off will be displayed immediately. There is also an option for Researchers to turn off the penguin when using the ASA24 system to conduct interviewer-administered recalls or to enter food records -- contact the ASA24 Help Desk for details.
  4. Issues after Completion:
    • The ASA24 system includes many prompts to help Respondents recall or report everything they ate and drank the previous day or in real time, including a forgotten foods checklist and a final review. However, sometimes Respondents remember a food or drink they consumed after the recall or record has already been completed. Once the participant indicates that he or she is done with the recall, it is closed and the participant cannot log back in to modify the data. For food records, Respondents have 24-hours beyond the last record day to log in and make changes to any day within the record. The recall or record will also close out once the reporting period (selected by the Researcher) lapses. If the forgotten food or drink is reported to the study staff, the item can be entered in a separate recall or record and the nutrient and food group values added to the original output from the participant's recall or record outside of the ASA24 system. Note, in this situation, the "foodnum" and "codenum" variables will need to be adjusted in the output analytic file(s).

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