Congratulations to Mary Russell, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ new president-elect (see the full list of election winners here).
As has been our tradition, DFPI will be in touch with the new president-elect to invite her to engage in dialogue on the issues that are important to us and all of our supporters.
This Academy election received national media attention due to president-elect candidate Neva Cochran’s not-always-fully-disclosed industry ties — especially to the American Beverage Association (see this Ninjas for Health post for details).
A candidate’s work experience is a valid point of discussion during an election. Bringing up industry ties is not a personal attack. As an organization, DFPI always encourages open and respectful dialogue about this issue.
Many dietitians have privately expressed to us frustration about the intimidation they have experienced for speaking out about these issues. We were also dismayed to learn that, as has been reported, the Academy apparently attempted to stifle discussion (for more details on that, see this Mic.com post).
Concerns surrounding industry ties and health organizations, health professionals, and academic research have increased significantly in the past few years:
- The World Health Organization has spoken out about industry-funded research”that confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt.”
- Reputable public health journals around the world have published many articles detailing why these ties are problematic (for just two examples, see this and this).
- Leading global newspapers have written on the topic.
As a science-based profession, we need to consider the research literature on conflicts of interest and corporate-funded research, which concludes that funding source has an effect on researchers, even if subconscious and subtle.
We deliberately chose to take a “wait and see” approach regarding the outcome of this election. Our goal, first and foremost, is to reform the Academy regardless of who is president. The issues we advocate on are bigger than one election or one president’s term. Our concern is, and always has been, about how these industry ties negatively impact the way our profession operates and how they do not align with the Academy’s own mission statement or its standard of ethics. Our plan was to continue our advocacy efforts regardless of which candidate won.
Lastly, we want to take this opportunity to encourage dietitians who had concerns about this election to keep the conversation going. Make your voices heard — passionately, but always respectfully and level-headed.
Run for elected positions (this is key!). Bring up this issue at your local dietetic associations (the Los Angeles Dietetic Association is hosting a one-day conference in April that will feature three debates, one of them on corporate sponsorship). Use our Action & Advocacy toolkit to help guide your efforts. Help make the Academy an organization that makes you proud to hold the credential you worked so hard to earn.