Good nutrition is crucial in determining the health and well-being of Aboriginal people in Canada. Many Aboriginal communities face unique food security considerations related to the harvesting, sharing and consumption of traditional food. One-third of Aboriginal households located off-reserve are food insecure due to limited economic opportunities.
Registered dietitians can provide the nutrition counseling and support needed in Aboriginal communities – during pregnancy and breastfeeding, to prevent and manage gestational diabetes, for healthy growth through the early years, to prevent nutrient deficiencies, to manage nutrition-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity, to promote mental health and address nutrition implications of mental health conditions and substance abuse.
As experts advising on diet, food and nutrition, registered dietitians play an important role in helping communities to improve their knowledge of nutrition and to better understand how to make healthy food choices that promote health.
The unique needs of Aboriginal communities in Canada, including food security and the high cost of store-bought food in some communities, social inequalities and the environmental threats to traditional food intake, are addressed in a role paper written for use by advocates to build community capacity for nutrition services.
A team of registered dietitians from Dietitians of Canada’s Aboriginal Nutrition Network worked collaboratively to write the role paper, Registered Dietitians in Aboriginal Communities: Feeding Mind, Body and Spirit (October 2012). This role paper is publicly available through Dietitians of Canada, “to bring information forward to inform decision makers about the dietitian’s role in Aboriginal communities for the purpose of enhancing nutrition services currently offered and increased health and well-being in Aboriginal people”.
By early 2015, Dietitians of Canada will be publishing a backgrounder document on Food Insecurity in Canada in light of the forthcoming revised position paper on food insecurity. Within this paper, special consideration of the unique challenges faced by Aboriginal communities will be addressed.