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Define Public Health Nutrition

author image Rebecca Slayton
Rebecca Slayton is a Registered Dietitian and has worked in the nutrition field since 2006. Slayton received the 2005 Betty Feezor Scholarship Award for her studies. She holds a Master of Science in food and nutrition from East Carolina University.
Define Public Health Nutrition
Public health nutrition works to guide a population toward healthier food choices. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

Public health nutrition is any organized measure to promote health, prevent disease and prolong the life of a population according to the World Health Organization. Public health was established to protect the well-being of a whole population rather than a single individual. Public health nutritionists focus on eliminating a disease or health issue among a community by educating communities through nutrition education.

Mission of Public Health Nutrition

The primary focus of public health nutrition is to protect and improve the health of the public. While public health nutrition strives to improve the entire population's health, it aims to reach high risk and vulnerable groups in the community. A component of public health nutrition is to make resources available that are not offered through the health care system. Public health nutritionist offer health-related care including food services and nutrition information and education that certain populations do not have access to otherwise. The nutritionist also collaborates with other public health professionals to influence populations to make better health choices.

Benefits to the Public

With public health nutrition offered, the quality of life for many populations has improved. A section of public health nutrition is to improve the outcome of pregnancy for mom and baby by educating them on eating properly. A poor diet during pregnancy or childhood can cause lifelong consequences. One example is the folic acid campaign. Since its introduction, the number of babies born with neural tube defects has decreased significantly due to increased awareness of folic acid needs during pregnancy. Public health nutrition also works with vulnerable groups that are at a higher risk of preventable diseases due to malnutrition. It also reaches groups undernourished from chronic hunger because they do not have the money to buy food.

Finding Services for You

Public health nutrition is offered through local, state and federal services. Some of the most notable public health nutrition campaigns include safer drinking water, healthy eating, food safety and healthy moms and babies. Most public health nutritionists are found in your local health department. This is where you can find some of the public health nutrition programs such as Women, Infant and Children Program, health promotion and disease prevention and maternal and child health. You can also find public health nutritionists at the cooperative extension, social services agencies, schools, food assistance programs, day cares, head start programs, health organizations, hospitals and some food corporations.

Long-Term Benefits

Public health nutritionists are easily accessible. Contact your local health department to find a public health nutritionist that can assist you with your needs. Whether you want more nutrition education or help with gaining access to food, they are there to make public health nutrition available to everyone, even those with low income. Public health nutrition plays a role in improving quality of life and prolonging life by promoting healthy eating. Nutrition can make a major difference on preventing the development of certain diseases.

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