Dietitians do much more than you think

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The careers of dietitians are way more diverse than many think. The typical assumption is that a dietitian is a nutritional health professional available through private practice to those who need and can afford weight loss expertise. The reality couldn’t be more different. Dietitians are employed across private practice and public healthcare; academia and research; corporate, government and non-government sectors. While they all have the expertise to deal with weight loss and weight management, which can be critical health issues, their expertise in science-based nutrition means that they work far more widely on a myriad of nutrition-related issues.

Our relationships with food are so complex that it is not uncommon for a community-based dietitian to be dealing with both issues of obesity and malnutrition not just in the same day, but even within the same family. If you are in hospital recovering from cancer surgery or a debilitating stroke; how do you take in the nutrition you need? If you are a consumer goods company wanting to offer healthier food products; who will you turn to? If we want to understand the latest claims about Omega 3 fats; who will help us sort the fact from fiction? If a school needs to revamp its tuck shop and find healthier, popular alternatives; what are the best, proven recommendations?

In support of Dietitian’s Week, which runs from the 3rd to the 7th of June, ADSA, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, is highlighting the wide range of services dietitians are specifically trained to deliver. SASPEN, the South African Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition; ENASA, the Enteral Nutrition Association of South Africa and HDIG, the Hospital Dietitian Interest Group have all joined forces with ADSA to raise awareness that there’s much more to the work of a dietitian than is commonly assumed.

Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson Abby Courtenay says, “At the core of every dietitian’s work is evidenced-based nutrition science and the ability to interpret this to meet an endless variety of demands for sound and expert nutrition advice. Worldwide, nutrition research is ongoing, and Registered Dietitians are required by regulatory bodies to keep studying after they have qualified in order to ensure that they are at the forefront of the latest nutrition science, no matter what field or industry they work in.”

SASPEN spokesperson, Logesh Govender, further explains: “In South Africa, dietitians must be registered with the HPCSA which regulates the professional titles of Dietitians, Supplementary Dietitians, and Student Dietitians, as well as Nutritionists, Supplementary Nutritionists, and Student nutritionists. Requirements for eligibility for registration include a recognized bachelor's degree in dietetics or nutrition from an accredited educational institution. The undergraduate training should include the three practice areas of therapeutic nutrition, community nutrition, and food service management. Dietitians can then select any of these areas to practice. Even in these different areas there are dietitians who may develop a keen interest in specific components.”

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