On 26th October 2017 the Scottish Government released its long awaited consultation on a future Diet and Obesity Strategy for Scotland. There had been a lot of encouraging talk in the run up to its publication about how it would go further than the underwhelming childhood obesity launched by the Westminster Government in August 2016. On the whole, it seems it has met our expectations, but there was one noticeable absence – any mention of Dietitians or other Allied Health Professionals.
We believe dietitians have a central role to play as nutrition and diet experts in promoting healthy eating messages and promoting increased physical activity, utilising holistic approaches and behaviour change techniques alongside other AHP colleagues to help people to reach or maintain a healthy weight.
It’s positive that the government is committing to invest in weight management interventions for 95,000 people over the next five years. However, for such interventions to be effective, it is vital that they are delivered by the right people. We therefore think they should be clear that some of that investment will be targeted towards the healthcare professionals that will be delivering these initiatives.
Dietitians are leading members of multidisciplinary weight management teams, both in providing direct advice and in supporting other healthcare workers to help patients. They work with patients to devise individual, realistic weight-loss targets in complex medical cases using evidence-based practice. They provide personalised, specific, age and culturally appropriate advice, taking into account the whole patient, not solely dietary aspects, resulting in a positive experience of care.
We recognise that any successful interventions cannot be delivered by dietitians alone, so support the Scottish Government aim to support increased training for the wider health and social care workforce and recognise the need for tiered approach to treatment. This should include giving doctors, nurses, midwives and health visitors, for example, the skills to provide basic nutrition and weight management advice, as well as giving them the tools to signpost/refer individuals to a range of appropriate weight management programmes and specialist interventions as necessary.
It was positive to see acknowledgement of the Football Fans In Training (FITT) programme, which is a great example of non-NHS specialist staff delivering effective interventions for weight loss with training and ongoing support from dietitians. We will certainly need more of these sort of innovative programmes if we are to reach all those effected by obesity.
Fortunately, the consultation process gives us a chance to highlight those areas where we think the strategy needs to go further, and the BDA Scotland Board will certainly be setting out the central role that dietitians and other AHPs have to play in delivering a successful diet and obesity strategy.
We as the BDA Scotland Board would urge all AHPs to get involved with the consultation process, and would point Dietitians in particular to our initial position statement on the strategy, which may be helpful in setting out your own input. There are also two engagement events taking place in January, organised by the Scottish Public Health Network (ScotPHN). It is important that AHPs’ voices are heard so we recommend that you or a member of your team attends where possible.