Up Hill to Capitol Hill

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January 23, 2013 by hannahemartin1

The 2013 class of MPH Nutrition Students recently got back from a whirlwind 3-day conference of sorts in our nation’s capital. The speakers who comprised our expert panels ranged from Committee staffers and aids to Executive Branch officials, and non-profit interest groups and watchdogs to food industry representatives and consultants. Each day we had 2 different focuses for a total of 6 unique looks at how nutrition policy unfolds: The Farm Bill, National Prevention Strategy, Nutrition Education, Nutrition Labeling, Child and School Nutrition, and International Nutrition.

I enjoyed and learned something from all of the panels, but my personal favorites were the sessions on The Farm Bill and National Prevention Strategy. This was partially due to the fact that these panels were the only ones that involved people working directly in or with the Legislative Branch, which I find myself more drawn to than the Executive Agencies. And even though I didn’t get a straight answer (go figure!), I also enjoyed being able to personally ask a Republican staffer why his party demanded such high levels of evidence to fund prevention programs while refusing to properly fund the evaluation process.

The trip was overall and great success and I wish that every dietetics student could be exposed to even half of the things that we talked about in DC. It is so easy for us to get lost in our little bubbles and go about our day treating our patients or applying for grants, all the while forgetting that the people we cast ballots for in November have a hand in shaping our hospitals, health departments, and the food environments of our schools and communities. And most of us will never play a very large role in shaping these policies, but if we all made a few well-timed phone calls to our legislators (state and federal) and gave a little monetary support to the non-profits looking out for the causes we care about, there’s no telling what the tens of thousands of dietitians in the US could accomplish.

I was personally energized to see dietitians working in a variety of settings in DC. I have long been interested in both politics and nutrition and only in the past few years have I realized that combining the two by working in nutrition policy was a reality. I also got quite the list of places that will be getting my resume in the coming months. I’m already looking forward to attending the Academy’s Public Policy Workshop over spring break and hopefully when I get to DC for my summer internship, it’ll be a permanent move! Here’s to fighting the good fight for our nation’s health.

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