Food and nutrition are part of everyday life. Dietitians support people to make food choices throughout life that will maximise their health. They focus on prevention, early intervention, supporting independence and wellbeing.
Dietitians provide evidence-based nutrition and dietary advice and guidance to the public, healthcare professionals and managers, local councils, industry, academic institutions and the media.
Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals regulated by law. This means people are protected and can be assured that they will get the latest credible evidence-based information.
Dietitians call on the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure people are supported to make healthier and better informed food choices to prevent chronic conditions later in life and to ensure that this who already live with such conditions can access dietetic support to improve self-management and promote independence.
Northern Ireland Board has created a ‘Call to Action for Dietitians’ which sets out four areas where they believe the Northern Ireland and UK Governments need to act to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland.
1. Ensure people in Northern Ireland are supported to make healthier and better informed food choices, no matter what their background and circumstances
- Empower people particularly from the most disadvantaged communities, to develop the knowledge and skills to buy, prepare and cook healthy, affordable, sustainable food for themselves and their families and support advancement of dietetic led practical community food skills programmes.
- Use dietetic expertise to provide training for health, social care, public and third sector organisations to promote good nutrition and healthier diets.
- Guarantee good quality nutritious food across public-sector establishments including hospitals, early years, schools, leisure and all care settings.
2. Recognise good nutrition from an early age is essential for prevention of obesity, diabetes, cancer and other chronic conditions.
- Recognise the vital role of dietitians in the delivery of ‘A Fitter Future for All’. In particular, enhancing family-centred services for children and young people who are overweight or obese by ensuring access to evidence based weight management services.
- Address recommendations for vitamin supplementation across the population and make Healthy Start vitamins easily accessible to all children under 5.
- Ensure children and young people can make healthy food choices by providing evidence based nutrition messages and opportunities to develop practical food skills throughout all stages of the national curriculum.
3. Guarantee everyone living with chronic conditions can access dietetic support to improve self-management and promote independence
- Develop the roles of dietitians in primary and secondary care, keeping people well and reducing hospital admissions among those with chronic conditions such as cardiac disease, diabetes, cancer and gastrointestinal issues, for example, coeliac disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Use dietetic expertise in the delivery of structured group education, dietetic led clinics and extended-scope dietetic roles to equip people to self-manage chronic conditions and enhance quality of life
- Support best use of dietetic skills to work collaboratively with others to promote optimum nutrition and care for older people in the community, reducing the risk of malnutrition and unplanned hospital admission.
4. Recognise dietitians as key leaders and professionals in supporting and empowering public bodies (in particular Health, Education and the Agri-Food sectors) to meet outcomes of the Northern Ireland Draft Programme for Government Framework 2016 – 2021.
- Use dietetic expertise to improve the quality of the health care experience, increase healthy life expectancy and reduce health inequalities and preventable deaths
- Increase awareness of the crucial function of nutrition in improving:
- Health in pregnancy
- Child development
- Mental health
- Support for children and adults with particular care needs
- Recognise the unique skills of dietitians working alongside the Agri-food and Education sectors providing advice, training and practical guidance to achieve a sustainable and health promoting food environment in Northern Ireland.