Why are dietitian services important in primary care?
Primary care dietitians support health promotion, disease prevention, treatment and rehab while working in diabetes clinics, family health teams, community health centres, doctor’s offices, telehealth services, and more. Their scope of practice is vast and includes individual counselling or group education in heart health, diabetes, behaviour change, infant feeding and many other health conditions.
Dietitians working in primary care have a significant impact on client outcomes and reduce health care costs. Nutrition counselling, physical activity and behavior modification can:
Review the evidence in the Primary Care Pen Knowledge Pathway
- Reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes in at-risk adults by up to 70%
- Improve cholesterol levels and blood pressure after 3 months
- Decrease body weight by 3-6 kg after 12 months
According to a 2018 survey, Ontario dietitians working in primary health care spend most of their time on chronic disease management, and many patients who would benefit from nutrition counselling are not referred to dietitian services.
Advocacy for dietitian services in primary care
Nutrition services and dietitians should be an important part of all primary care settings. In pre-budget submissions, election campaigns, and ongoing government engagement, DC advocates for increased access to dietitian services in primary care. Additional advocacy issues include staffing standards, wage inequities and scope of practice.
You can read more of DC’s recommendations for primary health care in the Pan-Canadian Environmental Scan of Dietitians in Primary Care.
Recent advocacy actions:
- April 2019: DC and the Ontario Primary Health Care Action Group and Ontario Family Health Team Dietitians Network, published The Dietitian Workforce in Ontario Primary Health Care Report. In this paper, DC recommends that governments collect dietetic workforce data to support workforce planning. Dietitians should also collect data on staffing, activities and outcomes to support benchmarks.
- March 2018: DC, along with primary health care action groups from across Canada, published the Pan-Canadian Environmental Scan for Dietitians in Primary Health Care. This scan provides an overview of regional primary health care settings and dietitian services. In this paper, we found limited and incomplete data on the number of dietitians employed in the system.
What can you do to learn more about primary care?
- Learning on Demand has many presentations from leading experts on nutrition in primary care. Search under “nutrition care” or start with these:
- You can find position papers and reports on primary care in our Resource Library. Search the keyword, “primary”.