Standing Out

Dietitians Stand Out

Dietitian at WorkAcross the spectrum of allied health professionals, dietitians stand out as best suited to provide weight management counseling to people with obesity.

No, that’s not PR from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It’s the finding of research from Johns Hopkins just published in Obesity. Sara Bleich and colleagues conducted a study with 500 health professionals from nursing, nutrition, behavioral health, exercise, and pharmacy. Nutrition professionals were most likely to self-identify and to be identified by their colleagues in other health professions to help people with obesity lose weight.

This is not to say that dietitians are the only professionals who can play a key role. It is that they are the ones most likely to have the necessary training and skills. More than three quarters of nutrition professionals reported having high quality training in weight management. All of them reported receiving some training. In other recent research by the same investigators, only 63% of physicians report having such training. The authors conclude:

Our results suggest that all nutrition professionals have some educational experience in this domain, which suggests that they have the education and training to take on a lead role in obesity care.

And now, reimbursement models need to keep up with the reality that dietitians can play a critical, cost-effective role in delivering care for obesity. One step in the right direction will be passage of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, which will empower the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to make such changes. The time has come.

Click here to read the study in Obesity.

Standing Out, photograph © Suresh Eswaran / flickr

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4 Responses to “Dietitians Stand Out”

  1. December 07, 2014 at 12:36 pm, Anna J. said:

    Now ask people with obesity which professional they’d be least willing to meet for weight management. Anecdotally, I and the people with obesity I know who have attempted to work with dietitians have been frustrated and invalidated by their ineffectual, maddeningly cheerful, calorie obsessed ways. The majority of normal weight individuals DON’T count calories. For thousands of years, humans as a population were notmal weight and didn’t count calories. Counting calories tends to make one think about food more rather than less, which is the last thing you want someone with essentially an addiction doing.

  2. December 07, 2014 at 12:54 pm, Ted said:

    Anna, you make a good point. I know dietitians who are wonderfully helpful and some that are anything but helpful. The same is true for physicians, exercise physiologists, psychologists, nurses, pharmacists, medical social workers, etc. A good healthcare professional cares and helps. That’s rarer than it should be.

  3. December 08, 2014 at 10:13 am, Barbara Roberts, MS, RD, LD/N said:

    The recent bill passed last year offered reimbursement for obesity counseling and weight management to health professionals including MD, ARNP, PA and psych, NOT RD’s, definitely not a step in the right direction.

    Anna, yes there are bad RD’s, just like there are bad MD’s, or others in any field of work, or just our interactions with people in everyday life. I hope you give another RD a chance, not just assume we are all bad apples.

  4. December 08, 2014 at 6:33 pm, Ted said:

    Thanks for taking time to comment, Barbara. I’m really curious about the bill you are mentioning. If you have specifics, please share them.