209358 Educating competent community nutritionists to fuel the future public health workforce

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tina Fox Dugdale, MS RD RN CD-N , College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Department of Allied Health Sciences, The University of Connecticut, Mansfield, CT
The public health workforce is facing a shortage of skilled practitioners. Dietetics students in a Coordinated Program must develop competence in foundation knowledge and skills associated with community nutrition. Amidst university budget cuts and a volatile economy, supervised practice experiences can be costly. Collaborative efforts with a state public health department can produce valuable opportunities to educate students. We developed a three-semester supervised practice track in community nutrition that was guided by current competency standards in dietetics and paralleled the goals and objectives of the Connecticut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan-Education (SNAP-Ed). “Hands-on” experiences reaching SNAP eligibles included nutrition education for children and families, social marketing initiatives, and program evaluation. Utilizing tracking documents, students engaged in a continuous cycle of self-assessment of competence and skills in community nutrition, many of which align with core competencies for public health professionals, e.g., assessment, communication, management and community-based research. Collectively, over three-quarters of the first and second cohorts “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that supervised practice experiences actualized foundation knowledge and enhanced confidence as students progressed to entry-level competence in community nutrition. University and public health goals were supported via cost-effective delivery of nutrition education while generating competent practitioners to enter the public health arena. Longer-term evaluation will include development of a survey tool for public health stakeholders to demonstrate continued value of this supervised practice track to increase entry-level competence in community nutrition while improving dietary quality and health of at-risk populations.

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the benefits of public health and university partnerships to training competent entry-level community practitioners 2. Discuss the value of self-assessment within a goal-oriented, self-directed learning model 3. Describe gains to an “at risk” population via nutrition education

Keywords: Training, Education

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have earned my Masters in Allied Health Sciences (conc: health promotion) and my Bachelors of Science in Nutrition. I have worked in a community nursing and health promotion context for over 20 years. This abstract submission is representative of five years expertise in the coordination and management of undergraduate dietetics students in paraprofessional roles delivering nutrition education to a culturally diverse, low-income food stamp population in a variety of sites in the state of CT. Result: Delivery of nutrition education to low-knowledge, low literacy individuals, i.e extending resources of a public agency, while cost-effectively increasing students' skills in public health professional roles during supervised practice course time.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.