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Food for Thought

February 18, 2014

It is an exciting time for me and many other Master’s students and dietetic interns. We are close to entering the workforce and the opportunities seem boundless!

Throughout my short time at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, I’ve been introduced to a wide array of practical experiences and lectures that have developed the essential skills and critical thought that I will be applying to my future public health practice. In a span of only 5 months, I have been able to:

  • Contribute to writing a briefing note that will be shared with a public health unit on the topic of smoking among low socioeconomic groups
  • Conduct a needs assessment for Toronto Public Library related to nutrition workshops for older adults
  •  Independently develop and facilitate a pre-natal nutrition workshop for the University of Toronto Family Care Office

Aside from these amazing hands-on opportunities, the classroom has allowed me to conceptualize as to how I can best navigate a path that will set me on track to address public health policy change concerning food insecurity and healthy inequities.  Interestingly, whether I am in a qualitative research class or discussing the impact of behavioural economics on policy, debate among public health measures to address nutrition-related chronic diseases are often brought up in conversation. As a future Registered Dietitian, it is exciting to see so many people with diverse thoughts toward food – after all it is a topic central to everyone considering it is a basic need of human life.

Increasing rates of nutrition-related chronic diseases and food insecurity would suggest there is an increasing demand for Registered Dietitians – regulated health professionals with unique training in nutritional sciences, food systems and their interconnectedness with the social determinants of health.     Yet, thinking of job prospects can be a bit daunting especially when Ontario has the lowest number of dietitians per capita compared to any other province. This is despite debate around the contentious issue of menu labelling, Premier Wynne’s push for a Local Food Act, and organizations such as The Stop and FoodShare redefining people’s relationship with food.  There seems to be many prospects for enthusiastic new professionals  to become employed in diverse sectors that have not previously employed many dietitians.

So how do we get started?
·         Apply for jobs not solely posted for Registered Dietitians
Can you see yourself as a policy analyst, community development worker, health promoter, project manager? I hope so, because you have the relevant skills that will help you thrive in these types of jobs.

·         Get involved in local food organizations, community networks, and attend conferences that target the interdisciplinary professional community that are passionate about food!
Get your name out there – you have a lot to offer! The Nutrition Resource Centre and OPHA hold many workshops and webinars to help with this.

·         Get a group of colleagues or peers together and advocate for the profession. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for us.
Instead of re-inventing the wheel, look out for the many groups that are already doing this. If you are a Dietitians of Canada member, you can join one of their specialized networks to connect with other like-minded people. 

This is a chance for new employment sectors to see all the skills we have to contribute…and we do have a lot to contribute. Can you think of other ways new professionals or graduate students can help advance the profession? I would love to hear! Feel free to connect with me.



About the writer:
Jessica Bihari is a 1st year Master of Public Health Student specializing in Community Nutrition at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She is also a CIHR Fellow in Public Health Policy for 2013-2014. Her professional interests include food policy, social justice, and community mobilization. In her free time, she loves travelling, learning mindfulness at yoga classes, and reading memoirs/biographies. You may connect with Jessica through LinkedIn or e-mail her at jessica.bihari@gmail.com

FOR MEMBERS: 
If you are an OPHA member who enjoys writing, is passionate about public health, and have a story to share, you can be featured here next. Contact Megha Bhavsar at meghabhav@gmail.com. Please include “OPHA Blog” in the subject. Include 2-3 ideas of topics you would like to write about.

Topics can include (but are not limited to): your internship/practicum experience, entering the workforce, an opinion piece on a current public health hot topic, public health research, etc., or perhaps you’re a member with an established public health career and would like to share your wisdom with the next generation! 

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