The Nutrition Workforce Gains Traction in Healthcare
- Luyue Zheng, MS, RD, PhD Student University of New Hampshire, Chairelect, Student Division of SNEB
- Ksten Heitman, PhD, RDN, LD The Ohio State University, Member, Student Division of SNEB
- Kritika Gupta, PhD, CHES Senior Program Analyst, Ripple Effect, Past Chair, Student Division of SNEB
- Katharine Garrity, MS, RD, PhD Student The Ohio State University, Member, Student Division of SNEB
- Aysegul Baltaci, PhD Minnesota Obesity Prevention Program (MnOPT) Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Chair, Student Division of SNEB
The critical role that nutrition plays in healthcare has been backed up by research time and again. However, it was not until recently that the US federal government gave sincere consideration to the nutrition work force.1 In September 2022, the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutri tion, and Health—a national event focusing on ending hunger, reducing dietrelated disease, and eliminating disparities—highlighted the signifi cance of a diverse nutrition science workforce, including nutrition edu cators and researchers, to Americans’ wellbeing. Although media coverage was limited, the National Strategy2 (Strategy) at the live conference is up lifting news for professionals actively involved in nutrition education and health promotion. We consider this federal action as recognition of the impact that nutrition professionals have on dietrelated disease preven tion and treatment, and an indicator of growing employment opportuni ties in the nutrition and health fields. Notably, access to nutrition related services is outlined in the Strategy. Certain professionals, such as registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), public health experts, and re searchers from communities of color, are cited as having the ability to help expand access to nutritionrelated services, indicating the critical role they play in advancing health equity. Collaboration between and integra tion of nutrition research and the health care workforce is also encour aged to ensure successful implemen tation of the Strategy. To achieve the 2030 goal set by the BidenHarris Administration, it is clear that build ing the nutrition workforce is para mount. Meanwhile, this need draws attention to the recent changes that have been implemented for future nutrition professionals, specifically, RDNs who, starting in 2024, will be required to obtain a graduate degree.
The change approved by the Com mission on Dietetic Registration and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietet ics (Academy) aims to provide gradu ates with greater depth of knowledge and skills for practice.3−7 Benefits of the change include negating the need for a separate dietetic internship and creating a unique opportunity for entry into the profession.8 While the eligibility change aligns with the trend observed in many health pro fessions (e.g., physical therapists) in recent years,3−6 we want to empha size equity and inclusion in building the nutrition workforce, particularly adequate representation of professio nals from underserved communities. Fortunately, the need to improve diversity has been recognized by the Academy.9−11 To move toward a more diversified nutrition workforce, professionals from communities with a wide range of expertise are encour aged to work collaboratively to attract future nutrition professionals who are passionate about new areas of healthcare and meeting the increasingly diverse health and nutri tion needs of Americans.
We foresee future advances in nutrition expanding science knowl edge and access to healthcare, with growing recognition and respect for the nutrition science workforce. Advances in nutrition research, such as precision nutrition, will support targeted medical nutrition therapy treatments, while expansion of “food is/as medicine” can support bridging the clinic-community gap. By improving and diversifying the nutrition pipe-line, there will be expanded access to more equitable preventative services, and we could move one step closer to shifting the healthcare paradigm from treatment to prevention.
- The White House. Executive summary: BidenHarris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The White House; 2022 https://www. gov/briefingroom/state mentsreleases/2022/09/27/executive summarybidenharrisadministration nationalstrategyonhungernutrition andhealth/. Accessed January 18, 2023.
- BidenHarris Administration. Biden Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The White House; 2022. https://www. whitehouse.gov/wpcontent/uploads/ 2022/09/WhiteHouseNational StrategyonHungerNutritionand HealthFINAL.pdf.
- American Occupational Therapy Asso ciation. Become an occupational ther apy practitioner. https://www.aota. org/career/becomeanotota. Ac cessed January 18, 2023.
- Kicklighter JR, Cluskey MM, Hunter AM, Nyland NK, Spear BA. Council on Future Practice Visioning Report and consensus agreement for moving forward the continuum of dietetics education, credentialing, and practice. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113:1710–1732.
- American Physical Therapy Associa tion. Becoming a physical therapist. https://www.apta.org/yourcareer/ca reersinphysicaltherapy/becominga pt. Accessed January 18, 2023.
- National Athletic Trainers’ Education overview. https://www.nata. org/about/athletictraining/education overview. Accessed January 18, 2023.
- Commission on Dietetic Registration. Visioning Report: Moving Forward—A Vision for the Continuum of Dietetics Edu cation, Credentialing and Practice. Acad emy of Nutrition and Dietetics; 2012 https://www.cdrnet.org/pub/file.cfm? item_type=xm_file&id=10369.
- Skipper A, Young LO, Mitchell BE. 2008 Accreditation standards fordietetics education. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1732–1735.
- Diversity, equity and inclu sion. Academy of Nutrition and Dietet ics. https://www.eatrightpro.org/ acend/aboutacend/diversityequity andinclusion. Accessed January 18, 2023.
- Commission on Dietetic Registration. Explore scope and practice. https:// cdrnet.org/practice. Accessed January 18, 2023.
- Dietitian job outlook. Acad emy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend/ studentsandadvancingeducation/ informationforstudents/dietitianjob outlook. Accessed January 18, 2023.