Nutrition Educator Competencies

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In recent years, there has been an increased demand and need for nutrition education, globally, nationally and locally. While there may be no international standard definition of nutrition education, the need for qualified nutrition educators who can promote healthy individuals, communities, and food systems is widely acknowledged. The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) has been a leader in developing effective nutrition education and nutrition educators as far back as 1987 when the first competencies were issued by the society.

Recognizing the need for updated nutrition education competencies that reflect current research and professional opportunities, an SNEB Task Force was established in 2011 to explore the best way forward. With continued input and review by the SNEB Board of Directors, general membership and the Division of Higher Education, a decision was made in 2013 to develop foundational competencies for nutrition educators around the world. Over the course of two years, the Task Force developed a set of competencies involving ten focus areas of knowledge and skills. These competencies were presented at an open hearing and distributed to members at the 2015 SNEB Annual Conference and later through listservs for feedback. Comments were reviewed and incorporated into the final document. The Board formally adopted the competencies in January 2016.

These competencies articulate the foundational knowledge and performance skills nutrition educators need for the development, implementation and evaluation of effective nutrition education. The ten theme areas, and the more specific competencies under each of these, provide a practice guide for a well-rounded nutrition educator. The competencies may be used for individual professional development, curriculum and program planning for educational institutions, training within extension or other programs, or preparation for capacity development at the country level.

SNEB believes these competencies can provide the basis for our continued efforts to promote and provide expertise in nutrition education. As a society valuing informed and evidence-based practice, SNEB encourages moving these competencies into actions to empower ourselves, our communities, and our larger efforts in nutrition education to promote equitable and sustainable health and well-being in the different regions of the world.

The SNEB leadership would like to acknowledge the following Task Force members who developed the set of competencies: Sarah Ash, PhD; Melanie Tracy Burns, PhD, RDN; Isobel Contento, PhD; Kirsten Corda, PhD; Diane Dembicki, PhD; L. Suzanne Goodell, PhD, RDN; Melissa Olfert, DrPH, MS, RDN; Gina Pazzaglia, PhD, RDN; Jane Sherman, Dip.Ed., MA, MA, BPhil; and Jasia Steinmetz, PhD, RDN. We also thank the following individuals from other professional organizations who reviewed the document and provided helpful comments: Roy Ballam, BA, MA, International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE); Nancy Chapman, MPH, RDN, American Public Health Association (APHA) and Carolyn Woods Flynn Gunther, PhD, American Society for Nutrition (ASN).

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