Dietitians in Public Health

EuFoDin Logo DRAFT“Dietitians Do Prevention” is the theme for this year’s Dietitians Week an annual event in June, now in it’s 5th year, which has been thoroughly embraced by the profession as a means to getting the word out there about our work and profession.

As the incoming Chairman of the British Dietetic Association, I have spent the last twelve months undergoing a steep learning curve! As I have become more involved with the work of the Association I can better understand the breadth of challenges facing us. The challenges are not, of course, unique to Dietetics but that doesn’t mean that we should assume there is little that we can do.

All four nations in the UK have identified improving prevention and public health as a key component of the future NHS. There is a growing drive that we need to put more resource into prevention and public health activities as a means to managing pressures on clinical and social care services, and increasing the sustainability of provision.

In 2011, the Scottish Government set out its strategic vision for achieving sustainable quality in the delivery of healthcare services across Scotland, in the face of the significant challenges of Scotland’s public health record, a changing demography and economic pressures. 

The 2020 Vision provides the strategic narrative and context for taking forward the implementation of the Quality Strategy, and outlines required actions needed to improve efficiency and to achieve sustainability.

2020 Vision significantly shifts emphasis away from hospital based care toward a vision where people are able to live longer healthier lives at home, or in a homely setting. The healthcare system will move care closer to home, will have greater elements focusing on integration of health and social care, and a stronger focus on prevention, and supported self-management.

Public Health Dietetic practice is my own specialist area. For some time it has felt as though this area has been somewhat on the fringe, seen as less complex and somehow less critical than clinical work. But now, with these changes in models of provision, the role that public health practice has is being valued in its own right. The skills that Dietitians hold in negotiating complexity in practice and their skills as influencers are greatly needed if healthcare in Scotland is going to achieve the goals set out in the 2020 Vision. 

I recently launched the Chairman’s Theme at BDA Live. “Go to Dietitians 4 Prevention” will be key to further developments in this area of Dietetics and gives us opportunities to influence stakeholders, politicians and the public in a variety of ways. The work that Dietitians in Scotland have been involved in will be invaluable in helping us to further develop our theme and we will be calling out soon for colleagues to share their insights and vision.

Although we may not always use the same language to describe it, we know that Dietitians already “do prevention”. They employ Healthy Conversations in their day to day work, they embrace ‘Make Every Contact Count’ principles utilising brief advice and brief intervention methods, and that social media spaces offer great opportunities for Dietitians to share public health messages and information.

There will be times when the theme involves focusing on specific issues, for example  Dietitians recently co-designed and launched a Twitter campaign with Diabetes UK focusing on promoting free flu jabs specifically targeting those with a raised BMI. We also have examples of grass roots actions by BDA members. The creation of the Twitter hash tags #WhatDietitansDo or #WhatRDsDo toward the end of last year had a reach of many thousands in a single weekend, and continues still to be a powerful way to highlight practice. Of course, social media offers ideal forums for Dietitians to engage in public health messaging – the mere act of talking about our work, including newly emerging and evolving practice, spreads our influence. 

But social media isn’t for everyone and we must think about how we are designing our services – does everything Dietetic need to be done directly by Dietitians for example, is a check that we should be asking frequently. Many health authorities now employ Dietitians working in a capacity building mode. Supporting knowledge and skills development in other health and social care professionals and volunteers is an ideal way to spread evidence based nutrition messages and specifically targeting colleagues who have food, nutrition and hydration in their roles, gives us the chance to significantly increase the number of people with the right skills.

Caroline BoveyThe time is right for this theme! I’m very excited about Dietitians Week 2018 which kick starts the work of “Go 2 Dietitians 4 Prevention” and will be following as much activity as I can and look forward to hearing directly from BDA members across Scotland – don’t forget to tag me in your Tweets (@CarolineBoveyRD), posts and blogs.

Have a great Dietitians Week 2018!

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