No matter your role, work setting, or area of expertise, it’s never been a more important time for RDs to develop a global mindset. Looking beyond regional borders enables us to become more well-rounded professionals and effectively connect with diverse audiences. Whenever I travel abroad—either for work or for pleasure—I always try to meet with at least one local dietitian. Learning about food customs, trends, and nutrition hot topics firsthand from peers is always so valuable to help me get a better understanding of the food and nutrition landscape in different regions and peer through a broader lens. While nothing can fully replicate the experience of traveling to other countries and becoming immersed in local food and nutrition traditions, there are so many opportunities now for RDs to begin developing a more global nutrition mindset and connect with our vibrant community around the world with just a computer or phone—no passport required. Here are my tips for connecting with the global dietetics community:
Join: The American Overseas Dietetic Association (AODA) is the international affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. AODA is at the forefront of the increasing appreciation by the field of nutrition and dietetics for the need to focus on diversity and a global perspective. While Academy members can’t become members of the AODA and their state affiliate at the same time, all Academy members still can take advantage of many AODA member benefits by joining as a supporter.
Follow: Dietetic associations and organizations in different countries often have a presence on social media, so it’s easy to follow them on channels like Facebook and Twitter to learn about nutrition topics and trends in different regions. These channels can lead you to specific individuals whom you might want to follow to give you a window into the unique perspective of nutrition professionals in other countries. Whether you engage with groups or individuals on social media or just follow them, social listening is a great first step to developing a more global mindset.
Search: One of my favorite ways to get a quick glance at the nutrition conversation in different countries is to search specific hashtags. For example, #RDUK is the hashtag for a monthly moderated conversation that dietitians in the UK host on Twitter covering various nutrition topics. In the fall, searching #ICD enabled me to vicariously participate in the International Congress of Dietetics hosted in Granada, Spain. Keeping an eye out for conversations and conferences around the globe and then searching the event hashtag gives you a nice snapshot of the perspectives of the attendees.
Subscribe: Receiving AODA’s e-newsletters is one of the member/supporter benefits that can help dietitians keep a finger on the pulse of hot topics in nutrition around the world. Borderless Nutrition News, a monthly e-newsletter I recently launched in my current role, connects dietitians around the globe and shares perspectives on hot topics, nutrition trends, and local observations with a global audience.
Skype: Chatting on social media is a great way to establish an initial connection with professional peers around the world, but there’s nothing like talking face to face. Skype provides a convenient way to have a more meaningful conversation with dietitians who may live and work in different countries but who have a similar scope of practice. I recently Skyped with Buenos Aires-based Romina de Defranchi, founder of Global Dietitians, and also with Australian dietitian Maree Ferguson, founder of Dietitian Connection. While we may not have the opportunity to meet in person anytime soon, Skype allows us to discuss topics of interest in a level of detail that we would never achieve otherwise.
Meet: If you do get the opportunity to travel, I highly recommend arranging to meet with members of the local nutrition community. Last month before a trip to London, I reached out to the cofounders of Fight the Fads, a trio of dietetics students at Kings College who use social media to debunk nutrition myths, and we were able to connect while I was in town. One of the cofounders will be in Los Angeles later this month, and I’m introducing her via email to a few RDs there. Taking advantage of the opportunity to bridge connection with our peers around the world is a small step that can help make our profession stronger and our expertise more valued.
— Jaime Schwartz Cohen, MS, RD, is VP, director of nutrition at Ketchum, a global public relations agency. She bridges the worlds of nutrition and communications and has been recognized by both communities, having received the 2016 Media Excellence Award from the New York State Dietetic Association and being named to PR Week’s 40 Under 40 in 2015.