Exercise Science Career Spotlight – Pediatric Nutritionist
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 26 percent of 2 to 5-year-olds in the U.S. are overweight and more than 15 percent are obese.
Ashley Skinner, leader of this research, finds that curbing childhood obesity relies upon persistent and consistent strategy of healthy choices. Impacting the high rates means providing education and guidance not just to children, but also parents. Healthy lifestyle choices must extend beyond school, well into a child’s everyday life. She adds, “it is not enough for a child to receive more healthful meals at school (which is not always the case) if she encounters a gantlet of junk food after school and in the home.”
Childhood obesity has many long-term consequences. A study conducted on the long-term effects of childhood obesity on morbidity and mortality presents that rates of diabetes, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, hip fracture and gout increase in those who were overweight as adolescents. Additionally, childhood obesity is often linked with psychological consequences such as depression, lower reported quality of health, issues with self-esteem and emotional disorders according to this study in the Journal of Obesity.
Children who encounter problems with weight, diet and nutrition may work with a pediatric nutritionist or dietitian, health professionals specifically trained to work with children to develop plans for healthy eating and lifestyle choices. These professionals will work with children and their parents to determine the best method to treat the particular health situation.
To become a pediatric nutritionist, you must be a registered dietician. In the state of Missouri, this means that you have a bachelor’s degree with required credits in courses such as human anatomy, chemistry, behavioral sciences and nutrition. All registered dieticians in the state of Missouri are required to undergo an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship of at least 900 hours. However, requirements vary between different states. Detailed requirements can be found in on nutritionED.org.
Dietitians have strong analytic skills and are passionate about health. It is important to have a strong sense of empathy and desire to help people as a healthcare professional. Additionally, as a pediatric nutritionist, you will be working with children and their families, often discussing sensitive topics like weight and mental health. Individuals interested in pursuing a career as a pediatric nutritionist must have excellent communication skills and be cognizant of how to handle sensitive topics with tact and warmth.
As a pediatric nutritionist, your day-to-day will involve working with children and families to dietary regimens and monitor progress. You might advise on general nutritional issues or work specifically with individuals who struggle with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular issues and related disorders. Pediatric nutritionists work with children of all ages, including teens, toddlers, infants and the intensive needs of neonates.
William Woods University’s B.S. in Exercise Science Programs prepare students to incorporate health and wellness into a variety of fields. Students in all degree concentrations take Personal Health, where they identify action steps available for individuals, families and communities to improve quality of life, reduce risk of health problems and empower people. This education background prepares students to be able to meet the unique health and fitness needs of diverse populations.