As preventable, lifestyle-related chronic diseases continue to rise, the potential impact that dietitians have to change this trajectory also rises. At Real Dietitian, we believe that registered dietitians are the missing piece to the healthcare puzzle. Currently, while dietitians are working hard to increase their utilization, one thing is clear. Accessibility is a problem. There are currently obstacles to accessing a registered dietitian, from geography to scheduling, to pre-conceived beliefs about the experience, patients are not taking advantage of dietitians’ services.
Dietitians need to be a part of the healthcare puzzle.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 80 percent of heart disease and type-2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancers, could be prevented by lifestyle changes, including diet. Not only can dietitians play a role in preventing these diseases, but they can also help 100 percent of those that already have these conditions.
Most people do not see the value in meeting with a dietitian to work on a prevention plan, especially when their doctor tells them nothing is wrong (yet).
But we believe everyone should have access to a personal dietitian. The overall cost to individuals, as well as to our healthcare system will be much lower than drugs or surgery to manage lifestyle diseases as a result of poor eating choices over years and decades.
We want to change who people talk to about their diet.
We believe it’s going to take a change in conversation to change our nation’s diet. That conversation needs to happen (1) between two individuals, and (2) between the two RIGHT individuals.
(1) First, it needs to be a personal conversation between two individuals. Not a blogger and hundreds of readers. Not a TV show host and millions of viewers. Bloggers may know what works for them, but they don’t know what works for you. It needs to be one-on-one conversation. Food is personal.
(2) Those two people should be one person and one registered dietitian. Not a doctor, not a nurse, not a physician’s assistant. Just like registered dietitians are not trained to draw your blood, nurses are not trained to give you medical nutrition therapy.
What types of conversations do dietitians have with their patients?
- Foods to eat to manage a disease or condition such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
- Foods to avoid to prevent medicine interactions
- Realistic, personalized strategies that are based on the patient’s specific health
- Building a healthy relationship with food
While accessibility is just one factor in the underutilization of dietitians, we hope that increasing access will increase awareness of the power of registered dietitians in the health of our society. In fact, we dream of a future where, just as with doctors and dentists, everyone has a dietitian too.
Written By: Jenny Westerkamp