Diversity in the Dietetics Profession: A Review of Obstacles and Prospects

Pasua Chang, “Diversity in the Dietetics Profession: A Review of Obstacles and Prospects”
Mentor: Lori Klos, Kinesiology

Between 2040 to 2046, America is expected to be a majority-minority country. According to Census projections from 2012, mixed/biracial groups, followed by single-race Asians and Hispanics, will experience the fastest population growth. As America experiences this expansion in diversity, the demographic makeup of healthcare practitioners should mirror this diversity to ensure the best patient care. Many health care professions are already experiencing this shift in diversity; however, the dietetics field is lagging and is predominantly white females. The purpose of this research project was to identify factors contributing to the lack of diversity in dietetics, as well as initiatives and ideas to increase diversity in the field. This study was a literature review of original research, professional interest/practice, and commentary articles published in the last 15 years. PubMed was used to identify articles using the key terms dietetics AND diversity. Inclusion criteria were articles focused on barriers that minority populations identified or encountered in regard to careers in dietetics, as well as articles about strategies and recommendations to increase diversity in the dietetics field. A total of seven articles that met these inclusion criteria were identified and reviewed. African American populations were the primary ethnic groups discussed across articles. Five articles identified that the greatest barriers for minority students studying to become dietitians were the ability to obtain internships and the lack of support from faculty. In six of these articles, pipeline and mentorship programs are identified as strategies to support diversify the dietetics field. The barriers identified by minority students are aligned with the competitiveness of the degree, including limited internship opportunities, as well as faculty who are not prepared for or representative of diversity. To overcome these barriers, pipeline and mentorship programs must be further supported, especially as the entry level degree for dietitians becomes a masters.

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