If you’ve walked down a grocery store aisle lately, it’s not hard to notice more “good-for-you” options, like smaller portion sizes and plant-based products. It’s indicative of a cultural shift. Medicines and doctor’s visits are no longer the only healthcare drivers; nutrition and fitness choices are a growing part of the healthcare mix. And it goes beyond our waistlines. Nutrition choices can impact our risk for and outcomes of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. For example, a recent study found high-quality diets can decrease cancer survivor’s mortality risk.

Consumers are becoming more aware of the larger role nutrition plays in health. A 2017 survey of 1,000 consumers aged 18 to 80 from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) found the top benefits people associated with food were related to long-term health, including increased energy, cardiovascular health and digestive health. Yet, while health-conscious food offerings have become more ubiquitous, surprisingly, they have not translated into as much of a positive impact as one would think. For instance, according to the CDC, half of U.S. adults tried to lose weight in the last year. Meanwhile, 40% of adults in the United States are considered obese. Additionally, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men, as noted by the American Heart Association. And while people may think that food choices can impact health outcomes, they may not be receiving much nutrition advice from their doctor, as traditional MDs receive almost no training in nutrition. In the United States, only 25% of medical schools require a dedicated nutrition course.

So, what can we do as health communicators to bridge this gap? How can we improve health outcomes and reinforce nutrition habits that have a long-term impact, for weight loss and beyond?

Registered dietitians can be the answer

Registered dietitians (RDs) can fill the void. At Allidura Consumer, a Syneos HealthTM company, we’ve worked with RDs for years and have seen the value they can bring to translate complex health information to consumers. They are wonderful assets for campaigns with a nutrition aspect, like weight management or diabetes. But in our conversations with these experts over the years, we’ve learned about their expertise in diverse health areas—arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, osteoporosis and more. These RDs have often worked in disease states for years, so they understand more than most the role nutrition can play to support and promote health.

RDs are also seen as a trusted source for nearly two-thirds of Americans, according to IFIC. Their expertise can and should be considered by healthcare marketers across various health challenges.

3 easy ways health communicators can tap into RDs 

RDs can help us make more holistic inroads with patients no matter their health state. Here are three simple ways you can involve RDs as part of your communications.

Include RDs as part of a patient’s sphere of influence

Thankfully, an RD’s expertise is becoming easier for patients to access. RDs are participating in the growing trend of telehealth, or telemedicine. While this is a newer arena for nutrition, its potential to improve health outcomes is already promising. A study from the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation found the care of rural type 2 diabetes patients significantly improved when they had monthly telemedicine consults with a registered dietitian nutritionist. This reinforces not only the importance of nutrition in a patient care plan, but also the impact RDs can make when incorporated into that plan.

Co-create content with RDs 

RDs can spread their knowledge in more ways than just diet counseling. They can serve as excellent content creators, and more, in health campaigns. We have worked with RDs to contribute content to websites or campaign materials, to act as media spokespeople and to serve on advisory boards and speaking panels. They’ve written bylined articles, posted opinion pieces and participated in educational events, such as health screenings and CME programs. They can also create custom recipes and host cooking demonstrations, all tailored to the disease state.

Leverage RDs’ strengths for strategic planning

Not sure how to include an RD in your campaign? We’re happy to brainstorm or even connect you with the right RD from our network who can serve as a sounding board. The RDs we’ve worked with over the years have some of the most creative minds and can tell you quickly the best way to reach your target and what messages will resonate the most.

About the Author:

Rose Anna Kaczmarcik, MPH, has more than ten years of experience in healthcare communications. Her public health mindset has proven invaluable to consumer, pharmaceutical, biotech, and non-profit organizations looking to reach and engage key influencers. She has extensive experience with corporate social responsibility (CSR), stakeholder engagement and public health advocacy. Rose Anna has a background in chemistry and healthcare ethics and received a Master of Public Health from Boston University.