What is a Dietitian?
A Dietitian is a qualified health professional who has obtained a minimum qualification of a four-year scientific degree, with training in most fields of nutrition and nutrition therapy. In order to practice, a Dietitian must be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
What does a Dietitian do?
Dietitians work in a variety of different fields of nutrition.
Some of the fields are described briefly below:
Private Practising Dietitians: consult patients/clients with specific nutrition-related conditions or who are in need of nutrition intervention and/or who to need make lifestyle changes to protect their health;.
Therapeutic Dietitians: work in a hospital setting as part of the medical care team in managing the care and therapy of patients; they assess and individualise nutrition intervention, which may include special diets, feeding via a tube and intravenous feeding.
Community Dietitians: work in the public health sector and usually work for the government, community-based organizations or non-governmental organisations; they work to actively protect and improve the health of the community through nutrition promotion and education, prevention and treatment of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, growth monitoring in children, promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding, nutrition support for specific conditions and empowering people to provide adequate nutrition for themselves and their families.
Food Service Management Dietitians: manage the provision of balanced and healthy diets, as well as specialised diets in institutions such as health care facilities, welfare institutions, correctional services, institutional residences and elderly care facilities; they are involved in planning, costing and developing menus and managing food service systems.
Consulting Dietitians: use their nutrition knowledge in the food, nutrition, healthcare and pharmaceutical industries; are involved in food labeling legislation, nutrition regulations, nutritional analyses, product development and nutrition-related marketing activities; increased public interest in nutrition has led to job opportunities in food manufacturing, advertising and marketing.
Research Dietitians: work in the field of nutrition-related research examining the role of nutrition in health and disease and are usually employed by academic institutions or statutory bodies.
Why is nutrition important?
Nutrition is one of the foundations of good health and every person needs adequate nutrition to support their health and wellness. Poor nutrition results in poor health and promotes the development of disease.
Nutrition therapy is used in the management of a wide variety of conditions. Examples of these conditions include diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease (high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure), liver disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, disorders of the stomach and intestines (constipation, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, heartburn), eating disorders, food allergies and intolerances.
Nutrition advice and guidance is necessary in many different situations including sports nutrition and all the stages of the human lifecycle, for example, pregnancy, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age.