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What Is Your job Title?
I am a Registered Dietitian, and my title is Public Health Nutritionist
What Does a Nutritionist Do?
A Public Health Nutritionist works to promote, protect and support good health through the prevention of nutrition related disease at the population level. We collaborate with partners outside of health to develop policy, and to plan and evaluate nutritional programming based on identified community need and evidence based research. For example, we develop nutrition and growth standards and resources used in Child Health Clinics and childcare settings, promote and support breastfeeding, and work with schools, recreation facilities and workplaces to make healthy options the easy choices.
Registered Dietitians have a unique body knowledge in the area of food and nutrition with an understanding of the science that goes along with it. Dietitians may work with individuals or groups of people to provide education on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, prenatal nutrition, nutrition of chronic conditions such as Diabetes or Heart Disease, or infant feeding. Dietitians may also be involved in helping community members having access to safe, affordable, and culturally acceptable foods. By doing so, Dietitians may provide community cooking classes, set up community gardens, or participate in other food security programs throughout the community they work in. Dietitians working in the public health sector may work with a variety of stakeholders to influence policy and procedures regarding food or nutrition related issues. This may include working with school boards, or being involved in city planning meetings.
No matter where a Dietitian works, they are continually researching and examining the latest information in food and nutrition topics. Dietitians have a unique ability to translate the science behind food and nutrition topics into practical knowledge that individuals can use to guide them through daily life. Dietitians are your trusted source of nutrition information.
What Training Is Necessary to Do Your Work?
Necessary training includes a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition in addition to an accredited internship placement. All individuals must complete a national exam and become registered with a regulatory body. Many have also completed a Master’s degree or community residency from an accredited University.
Where Do You Work?
I work in a Public Health office.
Who Needs Your Services and Why?
Prevention of chronic diseases is so important to the health and vibrancy of our Province. Evidence shows that education alone is not enough to result in behavioral change. When education is combined with policy or a supportive environment, people make changes to improve their lifestyle. Public Health Nutritionists work to create the supportive environments where healthy food choices can become the easiest choices.
When that happens, people eat better and are able to prevent, treat and manage chronic diseases and live a healthy, happier life resulting in an improved quality of life.
What Is Your Favourite Part of Your Job?
Working outside of the traditional health care role. Working with community members and non-profit organizations allows us to work with people who truly understand that living conditions affect our health more than lifestyle or behavior change. We are able to implement changes quickly and can do so, when the community is ready.
What Challenges Do You Have in Your Job?
The biggest challenge is the opinion that if we just educate people and tell them to eat more vegetables, then they will do it. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support that opinion.
Another challenge is the lack of attention that is paid by the Health Regions to the prevention of disease and illness. Rather, money and time goes into surgery wait lists and hospital visits. As a result, there are rarely resources to do any prevention programming. Prevention programming would be much more available and successful if the money and resources needed were available. Unfortunately, much of this programming relies on others (such as non-profit organizations) who get Grant funding to provide some sort of sustainability to a program or initiative.
There is such a lack of understanding within health itself about the role of prevention, what health promotion is (it is not health education). Saskatchewan used to lead the world and country in health promotion and prevention efforts. Now, we are embarrassingly behind. It is frustrating and disappointing to continually see us taking steps backwards to focus on clinical solutions when the evidence points elsewhere.
What Are the Consequences When There Are Not Enough People with Your Training to Provide Service?
Prevention is lost. Health promotion in its purest form is lost. In my opinion, health will continue to get worse and not better.