Dietitians working in primary health care are cost effective


Based on a review of the literature of trials conducted between 2000-2014, “Dietitians working in primary health care can also have significant economic benefits, potentially saving the health care system $5.50–$99 for every $1 spent on dietetic intervention.” (based on New Zealand dollars).1

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to a recommended ratio of full time dietitians per patient population – it has been reported that 20-25% of all visits to a family doctor are for nutrition-related conditions such as diabetes.2

Dietitians deliver cost-effective nutrition interventions 

  • Nutrition counselling improves general eating behaviours associated with good health such as increased fruit, vegetable, and fibre intake and decreased fat intake3
  • Dietitians can reduce malnutrition in seniors leading to fewer hospitalizations, shorter stays and fewer readmissions4
  • Lifestyle interventions (nutrition counselling, physical activity and behaviour modification)5 can:
    • reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 70% in adults at risk
    • improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels (after at least 3 months)
    • decrease body weight by about 3-6 kg (after at least 12 months)
    • be associated with reversal of metabolic syndrome and has the potential to improve clinical outcomes, such as the risk of acute myocardial events6.


  1. Howatson, A. Wall CR, Turner-Benny P. 2015. The contribution of dietitians to the primary health care workforce. J Prim Health Care 2015; 7 (4): 324-332
  2. Dietitians of Canada. 2009 Moving Forward Role of the Registered Dietitian in Primary Health Care: A National Perspective. P. 12 Available at
  3. Dietitians of Canada. In healthy adults and adults with chronic disease, what is the impact on health behaviour change of telehealth interventions  delivered by health care providers compared with usual care? In: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition® [PEN]. 2016 Jan 13. Available from: The PEN System: an international, online, evidence-based, peer reviewed database for nutrition guidance. 
  4. Dietitians of Canada. 2014 An Inter-professional Approach to Malnutrition in Hospitalized Adults. Available at
  5. Dietitians of Canada. What is the effectiveness of dietary or lifestyle interventions for preventing or treating chronic disease in the primary care setting? In: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition® [PEN]. 2016 Sept 12. Available from: The PEN System: an international, online, evidence-based, peer reviewed database for nutrition guidance.
  6. Jeejeebhoy K, Dhaliwal R, Heyland D, Leung R, Day A, Brauer P, Royall D, Tremblay A, Mutch D, Pliamm L, Rhéaume C, Klein D. 2017. F Family physician-led, team-based, lifestyle intervention in patients with metabolic syndrome: results of a multicentre feasibility project CMAJ Open 5:E229-E236 Available from



Created February 22, 2017

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