Overview

Dietetics is a health profession in which the science of nutrition is applied to the management of individuals or communities in states of health and disease. South Africa is faced with a double burden of disease – infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB co-exist with chronic diseases of lifestyle such as non-insulin dependent diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Inadequate nutrition is a common underlying cause in both cases.?

In South Africa there are many career opportunities for dieticians, these include:
  • Private practising dieticians who consult clients/patients in need of advice on nutrition therapy for a particular condition or who need to make lifestyle changes including healthy eating. Clients/patients are followed up and nutritionally supported for as long as is required.
  • Therapeutic dieticians, in public or private hospitals, form part of the multi-disciplinary healthcare team and are responsible for the nutritional management of various disease conditions. They assess patients and individualise nutrition therapy, prescribe special diets, tube feeds and intravenous feeds as part of the nutritional care plan.
  • Community dieticians may work for the public sector or for non-governmental or community-based organisations, promoting sound nutrition in individuals and communities. They focus on the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding; promotion of growth monitoring; nutrition promotion and education; prevention and treatment of vitamin and mineral deficiencies; nutrition support for specific conditions; empowering people to ensure they can provide food for themselves and their families; and monitoring the management of food service in institutions.
  • Consulting dieticians offer their expertise in the field of nutrition to the food, nutrition, healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. They advise clients on current food labelling legislation, nutrition regulations and nutritional analyses; product development; the latest developments and trends in nutrition and; nutrition related marketing activities. They also often advise the media on nutrition-related stories.
  • Community and consulting dieticians also have a role in the development and administration of food and nutrition policies for government, industry, health institutions and other organisations. They also work in the development of resource materials for health professionals, the community, schools and the food industry.
  • Food service management dieticians manage the provision of healthy and specialized diets to persons in institutions such as healthcare facilities, correctional services, the defence force, welfare care settings, school hostels or old age homes. They plan, cost and develop menus; control, implement, evaluate and oversee food service systems, including the purchasing, storage, preparation and serving of foods and beverages.
As researchers, dieticians may conduct and evaluate dietary studies and other food and nutrition-related research.
In the education sector, dieticians may participate in the education and training of students, and medical and other health professionals in higher education institutions.