By Caroline Kohler
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The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has joined with the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education in requesting that Congress set aside funding for universities that educate students of color who are pursuing careers as health professionals. This request support their larger goal of promoting diversity in health professions.
The organizations are requesting $300 million to support college education programs in the allied health professions. Specifically, the money would be divided into grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
Additionally, the Academy is requesting $10 million for nutrition and dietetics career outreach. They describe the use for this money as “grants for organizations or institutions to conduct national outreach initiatives to encourage people of color from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to pursue careers in nutrition and dietetics, and to provide technical assistance to grantees to recruit and mentor students that enroll in their newly opened nutrition and dietetics programs.”
This kind of funding has precedent – the U.S. Department of Education has a history of providing millions of dollars in funding to HBCUs to support educational pipelines or provide scholarships during times of crisis.
HBCUs have a history of graduating many of Black STEM scholars and graduate a large proportion of the nation’s future physicians. Supporting allied health professional programs at HBCUs would be a logical next step.
How to Take Action
This funding request is not part of a bill but rather a proposed line item in the Department of Education’s budget. Therefore, control of this funding falls to the House Appropriations Committee.
If your Representative serves on the House Appropriations Committee, call their office and voice your support for this funding measure. Or encourage your Representative to discuss the matter with their colleagues on the Appropriations Committee.
Additionally, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL) have created a “Dear Colleague” letter for members of Congress to sign in support of the measure. (Fun fact: Rep. Kelly and Rep. Davis serve the districts in Illinois that include Chicago, where the Academy is based.)
Trillions of dollars get appropriated each year in the federal budget. This request by the AND and the NAFEO is an opportunity to get some of that money for future health professionals. Voicing support for this initiative lets members of Congress that increasing diversity in the health professions matters not only to the professional organizations, but also to individuals (read: voters) across the country.