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BDA Chair Caroline Bovey has decided on prevention and public health as her theme, picking up from the theme of her predecessor, Sian O'Shea. The theme is ‘Dietitians do Prevention’ and aims to see dietitians become key professionals for prevention of ill health and optimisation of health and well-being. This theme is well timed as much emphasis on ‘prevention’ is being made at national level within and out with the NHS across all four home nations.

The Issue

With an ever-increasing population and people living longer and with more ill health, the demand for healthcare is increasing. NHS England’s Five Year Forward View (2014) called for a ‘radical upgrade in prevention’ and declared that this ‘upgrade’ was necessary to ensure the sustainability of the health and social care system. This focus on prevention has continued in the NHS Long Term Plan in England, and in equivilent strategies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. 

In 2014 the 12 Allied Health Professionals (AHP) professional bodies and Public Health England took up the call and agreed on a collective ambition ‘to be recognised as an integral part of the public health workforce’. Whilst this was an ambition written for England, similar journeys were beginning in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There has been more focus on public health in relation to education, research, strategic alignments, communications and PR. As a result, AHPs and dietitians are now recognised as a leading part of the wider public health workforce.

What is the BDA going to do?

We have a number of objectives for this theme. We want to;

  • assist dietitians, no matter where they work and what patients they see, to recognise that they are and can be public health advocates
  • give dietitians the confidence to talk to more patients about lifestyle factors that impact health other than diet and nutrition (e.g. smoking, alcohol, activity, loneliness, falls etc.)
  • help dietitians to measure the impact of their conversations with patients about prevention/optimisation
  • promote dietitians as ‘Dietitians do prevention’ to commissioners /purchasers (including commercial and non-commercial organisations outside the NHS), governments and manager/leaders of dietetic services.
  • enable dietetic leaders/managers to create new services or promote existing services that encompass public health i.e. prevention and the optimisation of health and wellbeing.
  • launch a public-facing campaign to promote dietitians as ‘Dietitians do prevention’. 

We have already got a number of specific things we are going to do to achieve these aims;

  • Focus on prevention at BDA Live and other dietetic events
  • Promote the BDA Public Health Champions network
  • Form relationships with key public health organistions, like the Faculty of Public Health
  • Develop public-facing campaign promoting dietitians as the ‘Dietitians do prevention’
  • Collect case studies of dietitians doing preventative work and their impact then share at a national level (see left).

What can members do?

We believe nearly all dietitians “do prevention” as part of their role, although we may not always use the same language to describe it depending on the area we work in.  We asked specialist groups about the relevance of prevention to their day to day practice, and they described prevention in a range of ways;

We believe that there are some immediate things that member can do (or perhaps continue doing) to show that they are the go to Professionals for Prevention: 

  • Have healthy conversations with your patients. ‘Healthy conversations’ (RSPH and PHE 2016) explains what healthy conversations are and how you can fit them into your daily practice. 
  • Record your healthy conversations to enable measurement of their impact on health. Everyday Interactions (PHE and RSPH 2017) gives detailed information to enable you to record your healthy conversations and measure their impact.
  • Become a BDA Public Health Champion in your workplace; the BDA have set up a network of public health champions who help their colleagues to have healthy conversations
  • Adopt good practice from other areas. There are many examples of good and innovative practice delivered by dietitians and other AHPs in the document AHPs into Action (CAHPO 2016).
  • Contribute case studies to the BDA to share with others (see left). 

Managers and service leads have an important role to lead on this campaign locally:

  • Encourage at least one dietitian in your team to become a BDA Public Health Champion – they will be able to enable the rest of the team to start having healthy conversations and measure their impact.
  • Consider working and collaborating with other services that can support your patients such as voluntary sector organisations or community groups
  • Redesign your dietetic services so that there is an overall greater emphasis on prevention and early interventions
  • Use impact data to promote dietitians and your dietitian services to commissioners, purchasers and senior managers. Increasingly managers in the health service want to hear about what effect dietetic services have on the health of the public so don’t forget to promote all your established services (including rehabilitation, reablement, secondary prevention, recovery and malnutrition training services) as well as any primary prevention services that you have developed.

Further information and links