• By Jessica DeGore
  • In Uncategorized
  • October 21, 2020

Collaborate to Educate while you Communicate

By Caroline Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN

As an instructor for the Principles in Nutrition Education course at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, I can assure you that a great deal of strategic thinking goes into planning, executing, and evaluating effective nutrition education for individuals and small groups.  As healthcare professionals, you probably know this all too well.  It is also likely that you’ve thought about your education sessions and wondered, “are they [the audience] hearing and understanding what I am saying”?  The more we, as healthcare professionals, are communicating a consistent and effective message, the more likely that message is to be received and understood1.  This is why I am excited to see “Increase the health literacy of the population” as a new Healthy People 2030 objective and to know that many healthcare professionals are working toward the same goal2.

National Health Education Week (NHEW) is a great time to focus on the importance of a unified message.  NHEW promotes awareness of public health issues and a better understanding of the role of health education (https://bit.ly/3nkQesh).  Did you know there are health education specialists who focus on improving consumer health and wellness through education and promotional activities?

Both health education specialists and registered dietitians/dietetic technicians teach behaviors that promote wellness.  We develop and implement strategies to improve the health of both individuals and communities.  Health education specialists offer knowledge, skills, and training that complements the work of others – like dietitians3!  Certified Health Education Specialists are also eligible to join the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as Associate Members4.

What steps do health education specialists and registered dietitian nutritionists take to communicate effectively5?  Spoiler alert: you probably apply these steps every day!

  • Step 1: Identify key audiences and direct your messages appropriately. You may have one goal but multiple messages to communicate based on your intended audience.
  • Step 2: Develop a message that is simple, clear, and compelling. No matter the audience, people are generally busy and want to know the facts and how this information effects them.
  • Step 3: Get the facts. Stats, stories and soundbites are extremely effective to support your message.
  • Step 4: Spread the message. How will you communicate your message? Will it be one-on-one, in a small group, on television, in a newspaper, or blog?


These four steps aren’t limited to communicating effective health messages.  For example, you may want to present an idea at work to both a co-worker and your boss.  They are different audiences. They have different positions and different goals, so the message will need to be tailored to each of these audiences.  Practice these messages in everyday communication so you can increase the chances that the message your audience is hearing is in fact the message you intended on delivering.



Caption: University of Pittsburgh Dietitian Nutritionist Program students in Professor Passerrello’s Principles of Nutrition Education class learning how to communicate effective messages through food demonstrations at the SHRS Wellness Pavilion in Pitt’s Community Engagement Center in Homewood..



  1. It’s not nagging: repetition is effective communication. https://bit.ly/3jQHXdaAccessed October 7, 2020
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2030.   https://bit.ly/3jzA2B0.  Accessed October 7, 2020
  3. Society for Public Health Education. What is a health education specialist? https://bit.ly/3d4WDmy. Accessed October 7, 2020
  4. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Associate Member.  https://bit.ly/33CPjvl.  Accessed October 7, 2020
  5. Society for Public Health Education. 4 steps to communicate a message https://bit.ly/3np4EHR.  Accessed October 7, 2020

Caroline Passerrello is a Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and an Instructor at the University of Pittsburgh in the Master’s level Dietitian Nutritionist Program.  You can reach Caroline on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolineWestLLC/ and https://www.facebook.com/PittNutrition/.  If you’d like to read additional effective nutrition-related messages, be sure to visit the Academy’s Media coverage page: https://www.eatrightpro.org/media/multimedia-news-center/academy-in-the-news/academy-media-coverage