We are a group of concerned dietetics professionals looking to advance the dietetic profession and credential through advocating for greater financial transparency and ethical sponsorships within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Our efforts are guided by professional integrity. We believe the American public deserves nutrition information that is not tainted by food industry interests. Those of us who co-founded Dietitians for Professional Integrity are nutrition experts first and foremost; we went to school to help people achieve better health through food, not to help multinational food companies sell more unhealthy products.
What are you specifically proposing?
It is crucial to have change from the inside (many of our colleagues have made progress addressing this issue internally), but it is also important to raise awareness of the issue to the general public and help speed progress up by applying public pressure on our professional organization.
Our recommendations to the Academy are:
A) Engage in continuing dialogue with Dietitians For Professional Integrity and Dietetic Practice Groups within the Academy who have similar concerns on the topic of sponsorships.
Dietitians For Professional Integrity met with Academy President Glenna McCollum and Past-President Ethan Bergman on October 22, 2013, and hopes it was the first step toward ongoing communication.
B) Greater transparency and full disclosure of finances.
As Michele Simon suggests in her report on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ partnerships, And Now A Word From Our Sponsors, it is only reasonable that the Academy tell its constituents:
* How much money each individual company gives to the Academy in the form of sponsorships, continuing education fees, and Foundation donations;
* How much money the Academy makes on the annual meeting from corporate sponsors versus registration and vendor fees;
* How much the partner and premier sponsor levels cost
C) Reject Corporate-Sponsored Education.
As stated in Michele Simon’s report:
“The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics should reject outright corporate- sponsored continuing education, as well as corporate-sponsored education sessions at its annual meeting. Continuing education units should not be tied to any business interest, as it diminishes the value of the credential. No sponsorship guidelines can change this simple truth: The food industry does not educate, it markets. Even when the companies hire “outside” experts to teach the session, the information is still biased, and the company still gets its brand name promoted.”
[Addendum from Dietitians for Professional Integrity: An exception to this recommendation could be made for companies that make products for very specific clinical nutrition conditions, such as neonatal intensive care and parenteral nutrition. We would not object to continuing education from such companies, as long as it exclusively relates to specific clinical nutrition issues.]
Michele Simon’s report continues:
“The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics should do more outreach to health, environmental, and nutrition advocacy groups that offer webinars on substantive and controversial issues to encourage them to apply for CEU approval to encourage more diverse viewpoints.”
D) Adopt More Ethical Corporate Sponsorship Guidelines that Truly Reflect AND’s Mission and Vision.
As a starting point, we support the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group’s suggestions for more ethical corporate sponsorships (see PDF file below), and we are currently working on developing our own criteria: PDF File
Who funds Dietitians For Professional Integrity?
Dietitians for Professional Integrity is a 100% volunteer-run organization. That is to say, co-founders do this work with no financial compensation. All startup costs (i.e.: logo design, domain registration, hiring a web designer/IT person) were 100% funded by DFPI’s co-founders. Once we created our website, we offered our supporters the possibility to donate money to help us recover startup costs and help fund future activities (we began accepting donations when our website went up in September 2013). All donations have come from individuals (many of them RDs). We are presently not sponsored or funded by any organization or company.
We are currently in the process of drafting specific sponsorship guidelines (which will be shared publicly once finished) that we believe provide a framework of what responsible, ethical, and relevant sponsors for a group of nutrition professionals looks like.