At the recent Clinton health conference, Dr. Mark Hyman reminded the audience that the food that’s making us fat is also making us ill.

In response to this statement and to local workforce data, CVEP’s Health Industry Council has developed a strategy to prioritize awareness of careers in nutrition, and to develop work-based learning programs around these professions. The program will be implemented initially at the high school and college levels. Two local nutrition champions stepped up to lead this work:

Liz Stankis, R.D., a graduate of La Quinta High School’s International Baccalaureate Program, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Nutrition Science Program, began the initial work of this group: to complete a regional scan of program offerings, followed by a student template or road map to and through Nutrition Profession Education/Training Programs. Liz’ mission is simple: “To help spread the word about nutrition in order to help young people embrace the idea of disease prevention, rather than just management. There is so little known about the profession. It is my mission to educate others about the opportunities available to them.”

Sarah Gaete, R.D., College of the Desert Adjunct Faculty, and Certified Health Coach, has a wealth of experience, knowledge and passion about her chosen profession. Sarah has taught nutrition science classes at the community college level for 16 years, the past nine at College of the Desert, where she notes, “I have a captive audience for 16 weeks—time to change behaviors and to change lives.” Sarah created the ‘County Champions for Change’ program which trained residents and students throughout the Coachella Valley to reach out to their communities to teach the Dietary Guidelines and My Pyramid information. Sarah trained a total of 165 people, primarily students, through this program– most recently, offering a ‘Habits of Health’ meeting held weekly at EMC’s Annenberg Center for Health Sciences. Sarah relates her mission, “… Today about 70% of costs in healthcare are lifestyle-related…We each have the potential to impact greatly the face of healthcare today as well as our economy by having a more productive, healthy labor force.”

These two professionals are dedicating their lives to reversing the ill effects of poor nutrition on people’s health, ultimately improving the health of our community. Liz and Sarah are leading the effort to mobilize local students interested in health professions to understand how central what we eat is to our overall health.

The Health Industry Council’s Nutrition Professions Education Program brings current and retired nutrition health professionals across the region together to improve and expand opportunities for local students to succeed in nutrition and dietitian careers. Mentoring our future healthy community means getting back to the basics–healthy food and active living still equate to good health.

If you are interested in participating in this program, contact Donna Sturgeon, CVEP Health Industry Council Work-Based Learning Programs Coordinator: DonnaSturgeon@gmail.com (760) 861-8288

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