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The Need For a Watchdog Panel to Set Guidelines & Monitor Best Practices For The Dietetic Industry

Friday, August 13, 2010
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The need for a watchdog panel that sets guidelines and monitors best practices for the dietetic industry in India
The good news is that India is facing tremendous economic growth, but sadly growth in lifestyle diseases too.
Fortunately, people are sitting up and showing increased interest in health and nutrition. The health care system on its part has responded quickly with a spurt in the growth of medical facilities-innumerable corporate and private hospitals, wellness centres, health clubs, spas, gyms all of which need the services of at least one dietitian.

Though we can see a spurt in employment opportunities what we need to ensure is quality and for that,

The dietitian in question should have minimum basic qualifications, continuous updating of knowledge, should attend periodic refresher courses and have extensive professional interaction.

Professional advise given to patients must be based on scientific evidence . The disturbing fact is the number of correspondence and diploma courses are churning out instant dietitians with no depth in knowledge and understanding of serious health problems.

This grim situation will continue unless a body is set up to monitor the quality of professional training and dietary services offered in the country. Are we ready to work as a team and transform this field into a cutting edge profession?

Thus NVGFD `s proposal is to induct a panel of well qualified and experienced dietitians to lay down, implement and monitor standards for dietetic practice in India. In short, act as a watchdog to ensure best dietetic practices in the interest of the public.

The panel will need to ensure that dietetic education and training successfully equips dietitians with skills to practice and update their knowledge from time to time.

The body should be responsible for accreditation of the Foods, Nutrition & Dietetics courses in the country.

As senior members of the fraternity we look up to you to provide your valuable inputs on how this can be made possible.

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User Comments

03 January, 2012 | catherine winglet | Reply

catherine winglet You have presented great information. I will surely bookmark your site.
Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

03 January, 2012 | Mrinal | Reply

Mrinal Thank you Catherine - we welcome greater participation and dialogue to help prevent the decline of best practices in the dietetic industry. In the US the new Healthcare legislation might force certain standards to get adopted - yet marketing gimmickry and ease of online sales prove tempting to unscrupulous providers of counseling services find easy targets.

23 September, 2010 | Minal Sawant | Reply

Minal Sawant 1) To get a better hand on counselling skills, it has to be made compulsory for every Dietetic professional to complete 3 months of hospital internship + 6 months of hospital internship for appearing RD + Passing RD successfully. And every RD passed out should be monitored for their practicle knowledge. Also it should be made compulsory for every RD passed out to reappear for the exam after every 5 yrs, to keep their knowledge updated.
2) Their has to be a regulatory body to keep a strict watch on the qualification of Dietetics professional who are practicing anywhere in india.
3) A strict action has to be taken on other medical professionals who are not professionally qualified as Dietitians but still practice as Dietetic professional along with their own job profile.

20 September, 2010 | Anastacia W Kariuki | Reply

Anastacia W Kariuki In regards to a watchdog panel.yes it is a valuable idea and it should be internationally oriented.In Kenya and many Africa Countries,dietetics has not been felt.Here everyone is a Nutritionist/dietitian or a doctor.Its unfortunate that the health care industry is full of quacks and no regulations towards what you can buy and from whom in terms of goods or service.Many companies selling nutritional supplements and medicines have flooded here claiming to heal all types of diseases.As a results drug/nutrient toxicities have risen.You don't need a prescription to buy any of these and you can as well tell the pharmacy technologist your feelings and symptoms over the counter and he gives you drugs/supplements.Nutritionists/dietitians are rarely employed in this outlets and more so the clinical nutrition training is evidently lacking in our higher learning institutions.I hereby recommend that the international dietetic fraternity to team with us and help us set systems that are regulated so that the quality of care and life is not compromised.
Regards,
Anastacia

07 September, 2010 | Tanya | Reply

Tanya Hi Rajni,
Though it’s a good suggestion but many other factors come into play. For instance, many organizations are willing to take even less qualified people (even those with distance learning degrees) if they are willing to work for less salary. So it is easier said than done.

06 September, 2010 | Tina | Reply

Tina I am a dietitian based in Delhi. There are few hospitals here which insist only on having dietitians on board who have regular post graduate degree in nutrition.I think if others also follow policies like this then they can not only maintain standard and uniformity but also benefit patients\clients.

07 September, 2010 | Rajni | Reply

Rajni Health care Industry can play a role in curbing this menace, as mentioned by Tina, just like few hospitals are insisting on having M.Sc onboard, same way others in industry can make it a point to have only well qualified dietitians with them. This way market of correspondence or unrecognized degree\diploma course will shrink on its own as those students will not get employment.

03 September, 2010 | Deepajyothi Sukumaran | Reply

Deepajyothi Sukumaran Dear Kritika I agree with you whole heartedly on the need for interning in a hospital.This will facilitate better understanding of how to work as a dietitian in the hospital industry. However let me tell you a problem we face today.

I am a faulty member teaching Dietetics in a prestigious college in Chennai. I had initiated dietetic intern-ships for my students after their under graduation. Let me tell you, it is ever so difficult to get the intern-ships on one hand and after the students do get it, they are used mostly as secretaries. They feel students interfere with their work and busy schedule
Apparently even during their post graduation, students find it difficult to get inter-ships.
Now if this is the scene, then how will they even learn the finer nuances of a dietitian and boost her/his confidence before applying for a job. On another note, hospitals have to spend vital time on a new dietitian training her on the job. So where do we begin making changes?

03 September, 2010 | Kanika | Reply

Kanika Dear Ms.Deepajyothi ,
I am glad you shared ground realities faced by you in Chennai.I am resident of Delhi and have post graduate degree in Foods and Nutrition .Though in Delhi we do not face problem of finding hospitals for internship and many reputed hospitals do give proper hands on experience but nobody works as intern for more than stipulated time.
In my opinion also just making a compulsory internship of 6 weeks or a month or even 2-3 months is not enough to equip one with practical experience that is required to handle patients. As Kritika and you also suggested it might be a good idea to make internship longer. But these steps can be taken at higher level (university level) only.

03 September, 2010 | Poonam | Reply

Poonam Kanika,is it compulsory for MSc students to go through an internship in Delhi? It is not the case in Mumbai, where I studied. I did my internship as part of the dietetics & applied nutrition course

06 September, 2010 | Kanika | Reply

Kanika Hi Poonam,
Yes, it is compulsory for M.Sc students of foods and nutrition (Delhi University) specializing in therapeutic nutrition to undergo internship for 6 weeks and submit report of the same along with 2 case studies. Different universities have different guidelines I suppose.

07 September, 2010 | Poonam | Reply

Poonam I am aware that in Mumbai the MSc courses do not include internship as part of the syllabus. The PG Diploma in Dietetics and Applied Nutrition includes 6 weeks of intensive internshp in which at least 6 case studies need to be included. So there are vast differences in the course contents.

04 September, 2010 | Usha | Reply

Usha In Bangalore, it is compulsory to undergo an internship, two times for the undergrad course and once for the post graduation course. But the time for which the internship happens is very less, which is between 2 -3 weeks. This is not a sufficient time for understanding the nuances and work set up of a hospital, where patient counseling and providing food for the patients happens. There should be steps taken at the University level for an internship of 3 months at least after the final exam. The graduation should be provided only after completing the internship, this will prepare the student to face the patient and take up a job immediately with great confidence.

Dietitians should be treated as an integral part of the health care team and not as a source of extra consultation fees.

05 September, 2010 | Poonam | Reply

Poonam Looks like our nutrition courses (BSc & MSc) are also different in their syllibi. I know of universities which do not have internship as part of their BSc or MSc programme. I think there is a need to create uniformity even here.

03 September, 2010 | Kritika | Reply

Kritika I think we do need watchdog for mushrooming private or correspondence courses industry but also there should be a review of recognized universities post graduate dietetic courses too. Just going through prescribed curriculum cannot make one dietitian. Experience comes with practical knowledge Do you think introducing a mandatory internship period of a year or more in hospital for students would help (as we have for medical courses like MBBS\BDS)?

18 August, 2010 | Yamini | Reply

Yamini In my personal opinion, it should be made compulsory for every dietitian to get registered for practicing anywhere in India, in any set up- hospital, slimming centers, gym or related health and medical industry. In this way we can ensure that only best of lot is available in market.

29 August, 2010 | Poonam | Reply

Poonam In my opinion, there should be only 2 options: either an MSc degree in Foods and Nutrition, OR a BSc degree plus a registration from the IDA. The degrees should be from recognised universities. No one else should qualify for the post of dietitian.

18 August, 2010 | Jhanvi | Reply

Jhanvi I agree with this. With number of private institutes and distance learning courses which are providing diplomas \degrees to n number of candidates, both quality and quantity is being kept at stake. You can see presence of dietitians growing be it in slimming centers, gyms or any other related place. But question is how qualified and experienced they are?

17 August, 2010 | Sujatha | Reply

Sujatha I think it all boils down to Economics.I used to go to a gym and I was given a standard diet plan but the dietitian could not meet me.I have no clue if she is sufficiently qualified or not. Which client can/will ask if the dietitian is sufficiently qualified or not.Besides the gym will look into their profits and will cut corners where ever possible

20 August, 2010 | Sangeetha Narayana Swamy | Reply

Sangeetha Narayana Swamy Dear Sujatha,

You are the client and you should ask the administrator in your gym for a personalized diet counseling. A generic diet plan does not help, also during your conversation with the dietitian ask her a lot of questions and doubts. If she is well qualified and experienced then she will be able to clear all your doubts.

03 September, 2010 | Sujatha | Reply

Sujatha Dear Sangeetha,
Thanks for encouraging words,

The dietitian is rarely there at the gym. ts by appointment. When I spoke to them the dietitian called me and told me some basic hints which sounded quite contrary and did not make sense.

I feel nutrition counseling and diet guidance should be given by the most experienced person. and simply.

14 August, 2010 | Poonam Vaswani | Reply

Poonam Vaswani Hello Shamrao,
That's exactly the point.There is an urgent need to have a watchdog panel which ensures that freshly qualified dietitians have the necessary qualifications and training to be able to counsel patients in a scientific way and also ensure that centres which provide diet counseling do so in an ethical manner and not play with the health of consumers.
Suggestions from professionals will help set up the panel and draw up relevant guidelines.

14 August, 2010 | Shamrao | Reply

Shamrao Even if the panel consists of dietitians/nutritionists who are highly respected for their successful clinical experience,are private clinics/weight loss centres and gyms bound by the guidelines/rules?

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