Estimated publication date: March 2021
Alison Brown, MS, PhD, past Chair, National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition (NOBIDAN), Program Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, US
Jill White, EdD, RDN, past President, World Critical Dietetics, Adjunct Instructor, Nutrition Sciences
Borra College of Health Sciences Nutrition, Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois, US
The impact of racism on the field of nutrition and dietetics is pervasive and manifests itself in a variety of ways. The national context of police brutality against Black people has shed light on other aspects of structural and systemic racism in this country. These include inequities in our education system, income inequality, affordability and quality of housing. Those directly relevant to the field of nutrition and dietetics are disparities in access to affordable and healthy foods and issues of food insecurity. Related to these inequities, African Americans are disproportionately impacted by diet-related diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes (1).
Lack of diversity in the field of nutrition and dietetics is also arguably an artifact of systemic racism in this country. African Americans/Blacks represent only 2.6% of the dietitians in the U.S and between 1998-2016, the percentage of African American dietetic students declined by 11.6% (2). Rooted in systemic racism, much of the decline of African American dietitians stems from the closing of nutrition and dietetics program at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and declines in funding for HBCUs since the 1970s, leaving publicly funded HBCUs at the mercy of these policy changes. Several of these programs transitioned to hospitality programs and restaurant management, ultimately shutting off African American students to the dietetics profession. The financial cost of the 10-12 month unpaid dietetic internship is also a barrier to entry in the field for Black students. As a result of lack of diversity in the field, race based microaggressions are also commonplace in the dietetics profession.
As the field of dietetics is actively working on enhancing efforts around diversity, inclusion and equity especially in the wake of national protests around the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, it will be essential to actively and critically discuss the impact of racism within the dietetics and nutrition field.
This special issue of Critical Dietetics aims to capture the impact of individual, interpersonal and systemic racism against Blacks in the dietetics profession in the U.S. We want to expose how this influences the prevalence and treatment of diet-related diseases among these groups, the diversity in the dietetics field, and how Black dietitians are treated within the profession.
If you have any further questions about the special issue, please contact Jill White (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Alison Brown (email@example.com), Guest Co-Editors. If you have any questions about the Journal, please contact Jacqui Gingras (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Debbie Maclellan (email@example.com), Co-Editors, the Journal of Critical Dietetics.
- Cunningham, T. J., Croft, J. B., Liu, Y., Lu, H., Eke, P. I., & Giles, W. H. (2017). Vital signs: racial disparities in age-specific mortality among blacks or African Americans—United States, 1999–2015. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 66(17), 444.
- Burt, K. G., Delgado, K., Chen, M., & Paul, R. (2019). Strategies and recommendations to increase diversity in dietetics. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 119(5), 737-738.