Philadelphia, January 25, 2023 – In the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB)’s ongoing effort to improve the health of individuals, communities, and diets globally, the Society has updated the competencies necessary for nutrition educators to be effective. The rationale and evidence base for these competencies are presented in a position paper in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviorpublished by Elsevier, includes the “what,” “why,” and “how” of nutrition educators to ensure they are equipped to facilitate change.
“The White House Conference on Hunger, Health, and Nutrition in September, in addition to the keen interest in food as medicine, makes adding qualified nutrition educators to the workforce a public health priority,” says SNEB Chair Barbara Lohs, PhD, RD, CND. “SNEB has leveraged the expertise and experience of members, as well as evidence-based research, to develop competencies that will help employers, educators, and the public know they are receiving nutrition information in a way that resonates with people and makes lasting change to improve health.”
The first set of SNEB competencies, published in 1987 for the academic preparation of nutrition educators, was based on the results of surveys of 929 state and local nutrition education coordinators and 65 academic institutions that trained nutrition educators. In the decades that followed, the important role of nutrition education in health promotion and disease prevention became more apparent as rates of diet-related chronic diseases increased.
says Sarah Ash, PhD, Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutritional Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. “Incorporating these updated SNEB nutrition educator competencies into the training of nutrition educators, both new and in continuing education, will give them the knowledge and skills to be appropriate and effective in today’s dynamic and complex food and nutrition environment.”
The SNEB Nutrition Educator Competencies contain guidance on both the content and processes for delivering nutrition education. It is critical that nutrition educators have a thorough grounding in food science, basic nutrition, and nutritional needs across the life cycle, as well as recognition of the complementary role of physical activity in promoting health. It is also essential that nutrition educators understand the interactions between nutrients, foods, cultures, and social determinants of health and diet — including agricultural practices — that form the basis of dietary guidance recommendations to the public and dietary policy.
In addition to a thorough grounding in food and nutrition-related content, nutrition educators need to understand that many factors are involved in motivating and facilitating behavior change and how nutrition education is designed, delivered, and evaluated. Given the rising importance of communication through various forms of technology-based media, dietitians are expected to have skills in using these media for nutrition education as well, taking into account cultural differences in how people communicate.
The updated set of 10 competency categories is available for free download from the SNEB website.
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Community attitude for nutrition education and behavior: Nutrition educator competencies for promoting the health of individuals, communities, and food systems: Rationale and application.