Public health nutrition

Do you want to promote health and prevent disease within the whole population?

Do you want to help people?  Do you value social support? Are you pro-active? A career in public health nutrition may be for you.

What do Public Health Nutritionists do?

This role aims to help prevent disease by encouraging people to engage in healthier lifestyles and promoting equal access to health care and health systems. Public health nutrition gives you the practical experience and research ability to help your local community or assist with international health projects.

Public health nutrition focuses on promoting health and disease prevention of the whole population rather than the specific dietary needs of individuals.

Public health nutrition exists within an extensive infrastructure of government and non-government organisations, service and program delivery systems and the food supply system covering production through to consumption.

Graduate profile: Jessica Kempler

Jessica is a Deakin Graduate that now works for Nutrition Australia.  While she was a student she volunteered for this organisation and continued to volunteer even after accepting her first paid nutrition role. She then was offered a short paid project with Nutrition Australia and finally full-time employment.

She discusses what is involved in a public health role within Nutrition Australia in the video below [video 3:09 minutes]


The roles of a Public Health Nutritionist include the following:

  • Population health interventions
  • Community education / development
  • Public health / health promotion officers
  • Policy / guideline development
  • Advocacy
  • Media commentary (social media, blogging)
  • Research and academia
  • Nutrition consultancy
  • Corporate health

Areas of employment

  • Community settings (community health services)
  • Non-government organisations (NGOs) or not for profit (Nutrition Australia, Cancer Council) – as an executive officer, program managers, consultants (presentations, cooking demos), media and communications, add content to the company website, marketing coordinator
  • Local, regional, national and international government
  • Food industry
  • Tertiary education / professional vocational training (university, TAFE)
  • Research institutes
  • Private consultancy (seminars, workshops, pantry makeovers, supermarket tours)

Skill set

Public Health Nutritionists have skills in program planning, implementation and evaluation and food and nutrition policy development to help improve the health of populations.

Employment can be permanent or funded short term positions. Skills you should aim to develop the following:

  • Partnership & collaboration skills
  • Communication (e.g. people skills, teamwork, relationship building)
  • Good project skills (e.g. organisation, time management, problem solving)
  • Influencing, negotiating and advocacy skills
  • Being practical, understand what is ‘realistic’
  • The fight to improve the lives of others through health and nutrition

Registration as a Public Health Nutritionist

You can become a Registered Public Health Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA) if you gain sufficient work experience and develop specialist competencies in public health nutrition. Read more about registration as a public health nutritionist.

Making the most of opportunities

To give yourself the best opportunity to be job ready at the end of your degree, we recommend that you:

  • Keep up to date with current issues in your area of interest
  • Volunteer at the local government level or in a smaller community organisation as this will give you an opportunity to be exposed to the issues important to the community and be involved IN THE FIGHT to improve health in your community
  • Find a mentor
  • Volunteer in Nutrition focused Professional Organisations, e.g. Nutrition Australia, Public Health Association Australia (PHAA).
  • Join professional organisations, many offer a student rate for membership
  • Attend Professional organisation events or seminars and set yourself a goal to meet two new people every time you attend
  • When searching for a paid job, be strategic and look for one in your area of interest or one that will give you skills to stand out in your area of interest
  • When you meet new people tell them (confidently and succinctly) what you want to do when you graduate. You never know but they may have a contact that they can introduce you to now or sometime in the future.

What units or courses to study at Deakin

Deakin electives that will build foundations for your career in Public health nutrition.

The Master of Human Nutrition (H714) with a public health nutrition focus, it is recommended you complete stream A as this allows for greater choice of the public health nutrition electives. The relevant electives include:

HSN705 – Public Health Nutrition – learn and understand the social determinants of health

HSN714 - Advanced Public Health Nutrition

HSN706 - Food Policy and Public Health

HSN734 – Obesity prevention

HSN704 – Nutrition Promotion

Graduate profile: Dr. Rebecca Lindberg

Dr. Rebecca Lindberg is now a lecturer and health researcher at Deakin University. Prior to this role she was the Australian Health Policy Collaboration's National Chronic Disease program manager. She has expertise in areas of food security, organisational evaluation, chronic disease prevention and nutrition inequities. Rebecca is on the Board of Directors for the Community Grocer, is a convenor of the Right to Food Coalition and is a member of the PHAA . Previously, Rebecca was the Research and Development Coordinator at SecondBite and she undertook her PhD at the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, within Deakin University.

Rebecca provides valuable advice for a career in community development in the video below.

Audio of Rebecca from the Careers Information Night 2017.

Graduate profile: Jenny Reimers

Watch Jenny Reimers, Dietitian and Principal Program Officer – Healthy Eating at VicHealth, share her story at the Careers in Food, Nutrition and Dietetics Information evening. [video 20:06]

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