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Paths and Benefits to Diversifying the Dietetic Profession


The Healthy People 2010 objectives encouraged an increase in the proportion of underrepresented U.S. racial and ethnic minorities among health professionals in the US. However, of the over 119 thousand dietitians working in the field in 2021, only 17% of dietitians come from an ethnic minority group. Of that, 6% are Latino, 3% are African American, and 5% are Asian. The other 80% are white, only down 4% since 2009. The number of people of color going into undergraduate programs has increased 67% but the amount of admitted into dietetic internships have decreased 11% in the last decade. Overall, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2021 Compensation and Benefits Survey reports that the demographics of practitioners have remained virtually unchanged since 2007.


Nutrition is a key component in the treatment and prevention of six out of the 10 leading causes of death and non-white populations have the largest morbidity rates. The Institute of Medicine reported that racial differences in access to healthcare can lead to differences in outcomes. Particularly noted is the way health care providers communicate with patients and their ability to express cultural competency, which affects how facts are interpreted by patients and professionals. African American obesity researchers have documented the highest level of satisfaction reported by patients when the provider shares the same ethnic background. On the other hand, when patients feel ethnic or social differences with their healthcare providers, they are less willing to seek care and information that’s beneficial to finding appropriate treatment. Currently, there are no culture/ethnicity-based request tools on their healthcare professionals for patients in the healthcare system.


Fortunately, the Academy of Dietetics of America is proactively addressing diversity. They developed a coordinated program with The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children to help admit interns and the new Independent Supervised Practice Pathway started in 2011 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics help students with previous experience to obtain eligibility to take the RD exam through full or part time programs. Food has strong ties with the culture and tradition of a population. However, the study of healthy diets often focuses on European and American diets as the gold standard while sidelining many outside cultures’ preferences. This could impact how well and willing the patient is likely to follow the diet recommendations and prescriptions of their dietitians.


Additionally, Diversify Dietetics, a non-profit organization, seeks to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the field. They identify barriers to becoming a RD and provide resources to overcome them which will eventually benefit the increasingly diverse communities the dietetic community serves. CollegeBoard is also involved in the Commission on Dietetic Registration Diversity Scholarship that helps underrepresented minority groups in an institution accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics enrolled in a dietetics program that extends to the graduate level. Members of the Academy can also apply for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Advancing Diversity in Dietetics Scholarship that provides up to $25,000 for full time students.

The dietetic field has faced stagnancy in its professional demographic in the past decades that it is fortunately now making strides to overcome. Achieving diversity is crucial for improving patient outcomes and making the health care system equitable for both patients and healthcare workers. Dietetic and scholastic institutions’ programs have put the field on the right track towards helping underserved groups believe that they are being reliably treated with respect and fairness. However, many of these programs are still in their infancy. Further collective commitment to see increased diversity in the workforce demographics and help raise cultural competency and help compensate for the increasing population of non-white ethnic groups that can greatly benefit from appropriate nutritional guidance.




Written by Jeffrey Tsui

Reviewed and Edited by Supriya Lal, RD, MPH


Resources:

Deanna Belleny, MPH. “The Unique Implications of Diversifying Dietetics.” Primary Care Review, 10 Mar. 2021, info.primarycare.hms.harvard.edu/review/diversifying-dietetics.


US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016. 29-1031 Dietitians and Nutritionists. www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291031.htm.


Diversify Dietetics Inc. “Diversify Dietetics Core Programs.” Diversify Dietetics, www.diversifydietetics.org/. Accessed 5 June 2023.


Board, College. “Scholarship Search - Bigfuture: College Board.” BigFuture, bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarships/commission-on-dietetic-registration-diversity-scholarship. Accessed 5 June 2023.


“Demographics.” Commission on Dietetic Registration, Aug. 2021, www.cdrnet.org/academy-commission-on-dietetic-registration-demographics.


“Barriers to Becoming Registered Dietitians Identified by African ...” Criticaldieteticsblog, 7 Feb. 2021, criticaldieteticsblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/41-46-white.pdf.

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