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Food and nutrition is essential to life. Dietitians apply the science of nutrition focusing on prevention, early intervention and supporting independence and wellbeing, to enable people to make food choices throughout their life to maximise their health.

Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals regulated by law. When dietitians give advice, people are protected, so the public are assured they are getting the latest credible evidence-based information.

The Northern Ireland Department of Health Dietetic Workforce Review makes it clear that dietitians play a crucial role in delivering Healthcare Reforms and better health outcomes. However, these crucial roles will not be fulfilled without a significant increase in undergraduate and post graduate dietetic student places, along with the development of apprenticeship workforce options.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the expertise of dietitians to work collaboratively, embrace service redesign, embed the appropriate use of virtual platforms for service user assessment, education and management, and contribute to saving lives. You can trust a dietitian to know about nutrition!

Dietitians call on the government to:

1. Ensure people in Northern Ireland, regardless of background or circumstances, can access timely Public Health dietetic expertise to help them to make healthier & better-informed food choices which give the best start in life and help prevent obesity, diabetes, cancer and other chronic conditions.

  • Utilise dietetic expertise to empower the population with the knowledge and skills necessary to buy, prepare and cook healthy food.

  • Address food poverty and health inequalities by advancing dietetic-led practical and accessible nutrition education and food skills programmes.

  • Engage dietetic expertise to train, advise and support others in health, social care, local government, public and third sector organisations to promote safe, sustainable and healthy nutrition.

  • Ensure dietitians lead on improving nutritious food provision in the public sector including hospitals, early years, schools and leisure through the NI Food Strategy.

  • Build capacity so dietitians can deliver ‘A Fitter Future for All’, including evidence-based, family-centred services for children and young people who are living with overweight or obesity.

  • Apply dietetic expertise to recommendations for population vitamin supplementation and make Healthy Start vitamins easily accessible to all children under five.

2. Improve access to dietetic assessment, management and education for everyone living with chronic conditions or have a condition which requires a therapeutic diet to improve self-management and promote independence.

  • Maximise dietetic capacity so patients access timely nutrition support and to deliver better health outcomes across all community and acute settings.

  • Use dietitians to facilitate group education, dietetic-led clinics and enable advanced practice dietitians to promote self-management and enhance quality of life.

  • Engage dietitians to promote optimum nutrition and care for older people in the community, reducing the risk of malnutrition and unplanned hospital admission.

Dietitians in NI are unable to meet these two goals without sufficient workforce. Additional undergraduate and post graduate dietetic student places are essential, along with the development of Apprenticeship options.