Dietetics is the study of diet and nutrition in relation to health and disease.
Dietitians are health professionals who assist in improving the health of individuals, groups and communities through application of the science of human nutrition.
Dietitians use their expertise in nutrition to promote and improve health and to assist in the prevention and treatment of diseases in individuals and communities.
Typical roles undertaken by a Dietitian include:
- assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and specific groups of people
- planning appropriate diets and menus to meet the nutritional needs of individuals or specific population groups
- counselling and educating clients on appropriate diets, planning menus and supervising the preparation of food to treat specific diseases and/or to enhance and maintain optimum health
- working collaboratively with medical practitioners, other health professionals and food service providers to ensure that the nutritional needs of individuals and specific groups are met
- planning, evaluating and conducting nutrition intervention/education programs for vulnerable groups to ensure the nutritional needs of different groups are met
- leading and participating in preventative health programs
- developing and implementing food and nutrition policies for government, industry, health institutions and other organisations
- developing resource materials for patients/clients, health professionals, the community, schools and the food industry
- advising the food industry on product development and marketing strategies and providing food and nutrition information to the public
- conducting and evaluating dietary studies and other food and nutrition-related research
- acting as consultants to provide food service/menu assessments, nutrition education, training and counselling, and research support to hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions
An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is a trademark protected title developed by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) as a way of recognising professionals who have the qualifications and expertise to provide expert nutrition and dietary advice. APD is the only credential for dietitians recognised by the Australian government (for Medicare and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) purposes), many state governments and many private health insurers.
APD's need to meet detailed criteria developed by the Dietitians Association of Australia. These include completion of an accredited dietetics degree, ongoing education to keep up to date with advances in health and food sciences, and a commitment to a Code of Professional Conduct. All APDs can be identified by the APD title and logo, and are listed on a national APD register.
As a general rule, hospitals seek to employ dietitians with or eligible for APD status.
There are many opportunities for further study or research depending on your interests. A further qualification can help to enhance your existing skills and allow you to specialise in an area of your choice. Deakin University offers a strong research degree program.
As members of allied health professions, dietitians' salaries are similar to other allied health professionals, e.g. physiotherapists, speech therapists. Starting salary for a graduate varies from state to state, but is around $52,000. In private practice, salaries are determined by the number of clients a dietitian sees and while dietitians are free to set their own fees the median figure is $70 for an initial consultation lasting up to one hour and $40 for follow-up appointments, lasting up to 30 minutes.
Do dietitians need to do further study to practise in different areas e.g. children's nutrition, sports nutrition?
Dietetic courses in Australia prepare dietitians to work in a wide range of practice areas. Many dietitians also have further qualifications or experience in particular areas. Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) members and Australian Practising Dietitians (APD) make a commitment to practice within their personal expertise and to promote their practice accordingly.
Sports Dietitians for example are fully qualified Dietitians who have completed further education in sports nutrition. Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA) is a professional organisation of Dietitians specialising in the field of sports nutrition.