Dietitians in Research and Education

The advances in all areas of nutritional knowledge, both in terms of achieving optimal health and prevention of disease and in therapeutic nutrition, have led to an increasing number of dietitians working in research. The combination of nutritional and medical knowledge and the ability to translate these into terms of foods eaten means that the dietitian has a unique role to play. Dietitians often approach research from a deductive perspective (i.e., in order to understand or solve difficulties observed in practice) and the results of this research will often have practical significance and can be incorporated into treatments. Evaluation of practice can also be considered as part of this deductive process and is essential in the current health care climate, in which increasing reliance is put on measuring effectiveness and the use of evidence-based medicine. In addition, dietitians are increasingly involved in the basic experimental and analytical scientific research that is essential for nutrition and dietetics to advance in both clinical and nonclinical areas. Involvement in research has led to registration for higher degrees and the number of dietitians with masters' degrees or doctorates is now considerable in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Research is also seen as an important part of the role of those dietitians employed in universities and colleges to teach dietetic and other students. In the United Kingdom and other countries, there is a requirement that each dietetic training course has registered dietitians on the staff, and in many cases these people also work in the NHS in order to keep up-to-date with current practice. Dietitians have been involved for many years in the education of other professional groups, including nurses, midwives, and pharmacists. Recently, advances have been made in convincing those in charge of medical education at undergraduate and postgraduate levels of the importance of nutrition in medical education, and this is also seen as an important area in which dietitians should be involved.

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