March has been celebrated as National Nutrition Month for 50 years by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Registered dietitian nutritionists work in a variety of settings including health care, education, industry and government. Public health nutrition is the application of nutrition and public health principles to design programs, systems, policies and environments that aim to improve or maintain the optimal health of populations and targeted groups. Public health models incorporating policy, systems and environmental initiatives that address social determinants of health allow registered dietitian nutritionists to have a greater impact on the root causes of nutrition inequities.
To do this work, public health registered dietitian nutritionists strive to develop specialized skills that allow them to integrate dietetic knowledge and experience into broader efforts that meet the 10 essential services of public health. Using these skills, public health registered dietitian nutritionists aim for an asset-based community-engaged approach that promotes a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing.
Public health and community nutrition practice skills include:
- Public health service
- Financial planning and management
- Cultural humility
- Leadership and systems thinking
- Analytical and assessment
- Policy development and program planning
- Community dimensions of practice
At ADHS (Arizona Department of Health Services), registered dietitian nutritionists administer and collaborate with programs that effectively work to enact policy, systems and environmental changes to promote health and wellness for all Arizonans. These efforts work to remove existing barriers to health and well-being and support families and communities in efforts to improve nutrition and physical activity behaviors. Key programs they lead and support include:
- Arizona WIC Program
- AZ Health Zone
- Healthy People Healthy Communities
- Women’s and Children’s Health
Individuals looking for credible nutrition information and recommendations can go to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ network of credentialed food and nutrition practitioners. Use the Find a Nutrition Expert search function to locate a registered dietitian nutritionist near you to develop a custom plan for your goals and needs.
Sheila Sjolander is assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, leading the Division of Public Health Prevention Services for the past 10 years. She oversees more than 60 public health programs, including injury prevention, maternal and child health, nutrition and physical activity, and chronic disease programs. In her 20 years at ADHS, she has been a leader in integration of prevention programs, strategic planning and the state’s work to reduce opioid overdoses. Sjolander received her Master of Social Work degree from Temple University and previously held strategic planning positions in Oregon and Wisconsin. Sjolander received the Outstanding Achievement in Rural Women’s Health from the Arizona Rural Women’s Health Association in 2016 and the CHW Champion Award from the Arizona Community Health Worker Association in 2017.