Investigating and Refining Roles: Health Educators' Preparation and Competency for Delivering Nutrition Education
This dissertation presents four studies designed to investigate and provide evidence based insight into the preparation of health educators in the science and practice of nutrition. A mixed methods approach was utilized for this research. First, a review of the current literature will be presented discussing (a) what other authors have written regarding nutrition education for allied health professionals, and (b) the availability of research advocating for nutrition education for health educators. Also included is the review of twenty-three (23) articles addressing how researchers conceptualize nutrition, and their rationale for nutrition's inclusion into the respective allied health discipline's curriculum.
Secondly, an analysis of the health education curriculum of a professional health program is presented. With the use of an availability scale, the university's most recent catalogue as well as the curriculum of the health degree was analyzed. The health program was also assessed for the presence of nutrition credentialed faculty and the presence of nutrition requirements and electives.
Thirdly, the development and administration of an instrument to test the nutrition, nutrition education and health education knowledge of a sample of health and nutrition students will be discussed. The self-administered instrument was developed by the author. The final sample (n=123) comprised a purposeful set of students all currently enrolled at Texas A & M University, College Station, TX. The student's final scores on the instrument were assessed based on major, classification and by whether they had pursued a nutrition course during their undergraduate tenure.
Lastly, a qualitative examination of health educators with the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential will be presented. Employing a naturalistic approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted. The final sample comprised four (4) persons. Health educators provided narratives related to their prior experiences in nutrition and their perceived competency in delivering nutrition education.
Prior to this study, scientific literature has been deafeningly silent on nutrition and the health educator, the ability of health educators to deliver nutrition education, as well as the advocacy of nutrition for the profession. Thus, this study represents the first step towards addressing the limitations associated with the role of nutrition educator and filling the theoretical gaps.