How the Information Revolution Will Drive the Future of Public Health

Photo: gregory_lee/iStock/Thinkstock

For over 40 years, WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children — has served as a premier public health program in the United States. And with WIC, informatics is everywhere: whether transitioning the paper voucher system to electronic benefits transfer (EBT), using apps to promote and support breastfeeding moms, or reminding WIC participants of appointments via text messaging.

Applying best practices and reaching new standards of nutrition communications through technology in the public health and community nutrition setting is more than my job — is it is my passion.

From teaching and training dietetic interns to consulting in the area of social media, I have had the opportunity to work with dietitians and other public health professionals to address the question of not just whether to use social media and IT tools, but how to use them and to what benefit.

RDNs Can Navigate for the Public

Registered dietitian nutritionists today have the exciting opportunity to be the hub of the communication network that connects the public to nutrition and health services. In order to do that, time must be spent researching, understanding and practicing with apps, gadgets, widgets and websites. A search of the Internet for health information produces an overwhelming number of results (not all of it accurate or evidence-based); RDNs can help clients navigate this sea of information. Or, even better, RDNs can become technology content developers and curators so that nutrition experts have a stronger voice in the media landscape.

So, where to begin? Besides keeping up on The Feed, spend time reviewing the social media best practices tools from the Mayo Clinic or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Search out registered dietitian nutritionists on social media channels, podcasts and blogs. Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' site, eatrightPRO. Listen to the conversation and decide where and when you want to join in. Just like other aspects of our personal and professional lives, it starts with small steps.

Kathleen Pellechia on Twitter
Kathleen Pellechia
Kathleen Pellechia, MS, RDN, is the Nutrition Knowledge Management Specialist for Alive & Thrive/FHI 360. She is member of the Academy's Nutrition Informatics Committee and Chair of its Consumer Informatics Workgroup.