Dr. Elaine Long, faculty emeritus from the Department of Community and Environmental Health, has not slowed down much in her retirement. Dr. Long serves as the executive director for the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly known as the Idaho Dietetic Association.
In 2011, then president of the academy, Sue Linja, recognized the need to have an executive director to carry out the academy’s strategic plan and to provide continuity for the board in managing details, such as budget, communication, website, membership records, marketing and the annual meeting, in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.
Dr. Long stepped into the role as executive director when the position was created to gain credibility with the Idaho legislature. She and her colleagues agreed that it seemed like a natural fit since she has been involved in the academy throughout her professional career in a variety of leadership positions. In her role as executive director, Dr. Long provides leadership, financial management and stability to the academy.
Though Dr. Long assists with routine duties such as membership lists, telephone trees, and preparing the annual report to its national affiliate, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she also has learned new skills, like sending email blasts, using WordPress, setting up PayPal and managing the academy’s Facebook page, which — Dr. Long proudly states — has doubled in the last six months.
Perhaps most important to Dr. Long is that the academy helps connect dietitians and nutritionists to policy issues at the state level and, through the state academy’s affiliation with the national academy, at the federal level. This is essential as medical nutrition therapy gains prominence in the health care field and is defined as an essential benefit under the Affordable Care Act.
Academy members have access to the academy’s evidence-based library, which covers a broad range of the industry’s subspecialties and allows registered dietitians to provide scientific evidence for medical nutrition therapy. Also available to members are free toolkits to assist them with tasks like how to start a private practice.
The Idaho Academy is the premier source for reliable, objective food and nutrition information in Idaho. Their vision is optimization of the health of Idaho’s citizens through education, advocacy and community outreach. The academy’s strategic plan focuses on advocacy, membership, education and strengthening relationships with external organizations.
By advocating for registered dietitians, the academy promotes the Institute of Medicine’s recognition that registered dietitians are the only group of professionals with “standardized education, clinical training, continuing education and national credentialing requirements necessary to be directly reimbursed as a provider of nutrition therapy.”
During the 2013 session of the Idaho Legislature, members of the academy successfully worked with the speakers of the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees to write and pass House Concurrent Resolution 19, which encourages the inclusion of medical nutrition therapy and registered dietitians as an integral component of the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Dr. Long and other academy members, presented the results of this work, “Successful Advocacy Strategies for State Affiliates: Relationships, Messages, Member Involvement, Funding and Persistence,” at the 2013 Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition in Houston, Texas, in October. “Successful Advocacy Strategies for State Affiliates” also has been published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The academy has strengthened its membership base by establishing a network of local registered dietitians who serve as liaisons for board initiatives. This led to a peak in membership, 412 members, for the academy by the end of the 2013 membership year, which ran from June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2013.
Providing continuing education for members is just as important as educating the public about the registered dietitian profession. The academy’s board submitted grants to bring in nationally recognized speakers to the academy’s 2013 annual meeting. They received more than $4,000 in grants for the meeting, which was well marketed to registered dietitians and allied health professionals, leading to a strong attendance and a profit. Additionally, the board supported members during National Nutrition month, which led to the creation of more than 25 media events in March throughout Idaho. The events were shared with the public through the academy’s social media channels and website.
Strengthening relationships with external organizations, such as insurance companies and other professional organizations like the Idaho Medical Association, is key to the academy’s strategic plan. In 2010, the academy hired Pinnacle Business Group to serve as consultants in how to interact with the Idaho Legislature so that the academy could be a resource for Idahoans. The academy’s upcoming media campaign will be called “Know Your Registered Dietitian.”
For more information about the Idaho Academy, visit eatrightidaho.org.