Practice Paper: Social Media and the Dietetics Practitioner: Opportunities, Challenges and Best Practices

Volume 116, Number 11 Pages 1825-1835 (November 2016)

Abstract

Social media tools, including blogs, social networks and media-sharing sites, help nutrition and dietetics practitioners reach broader audiences and connect directly with the public. In many ways, social media has transformed the practice of dietetics and has opened up new avenues for communicating food and nutrition information. Social media has been an effective tool for virtual nutrition counseling, patient education, peer-to-peer support and public health campaigns. Increasingly, nutrition and dietetics practitioners are using social media to network and collaborate with colleagues, conduct a job search, stay current with new research, champion a cause, promote products or services and build a business. The potential role of social media in the profession is far reaching, yet there are important guidelines to follow related to ethics and professionalism. When using social media, nutrition and dietetics practitioners must remember that they are governed by the same Code of Ethics that guides all other aspects of practice. In addition, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of all the factors related to social media professionalism, including disclosure rules from the Federal Trade Commission, patient/client privacy and confidentiality as covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and copyright laws that protect intellectual property. In today's digital age, it is essential for nutrition and dietetics practitioners to recognize the professional opportunities and challenges of social media. Failing to effectively and ethically use social media can reflect poorly on the individual practitioner and the profession. Certain violations may have legal implications. The purpose of this Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics practice paper is to provide guidance on social media’s relevance, potential applications, best practices, benefits and risks.

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  • *This paper offers a free CPE opportunity for Academy members.

Please note the correction for Rick Hall's credentials in the acknowledgement section of the practice paper: Rick Hall, PhD, RDN, FAND (Arizona State University, Phoenix, Ariz.).