Public Health Dietitian

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There are a wide variety of roles in New Zealand’s health sector. Increasingly, there is a greater emphasis on the public health sector and on a population health approach. This report covers the role of public health dietitians including what they do, where they work, who they work with, the health issues they address. It explains how public health dietitians contribute to improved health outcomes and their importance in the future in New Zealand’s Health System.

Public Health Dietitian is an example of an allied health care role in New Zealand (NZ) today. As a public health worker, they work with communities or groups of people instead of individual client. Their job is to promote public health and better nutrition in the community (Careers
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Public Health Dietitians addresses a range of key nutrition or diet related health issues, including obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30. In New Zealand, 31% of adults, or 11% of children, are obese (MOH, 2015). The epidemic is caused by a lack of energy balance, where more calories are consumed than calories used (World Health Organisation, 2015). This comes from over consumption of food and drinks, especially those high in fat and sugar, and from a lack of physical activity due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Increasingly, there is a global trend towards high fat, high energy dense food (World Health Organisation, 2015). While excessive food consumption and lack of exercise are behavioral choices, there are a number of environmental risk factors such as the heavy promotion of unhealthy food and lack of government policies that contribute to the rising rates of obesity (New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA), 2014). Obesity also leads to other health issues, including non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and cancer and psychological problems like depression (NZMA, 2014). Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic illness, where obesity is the main preventable risk factor. Over 240,000 people in NZ is diagnosed with
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9000 deaths in NZ can be related to diet (MOH, 2003), while 11.4% of health loss can be attributed to dietary risk factors including high salt, saturated fat intake, low vegetable and fruit intake and excess energy intake or high BMI (MOH, 2013). Therefore, diet is an important lifestyle factor that significantly affects health of New Zealanders. These issues also have significant economic impacts. In 2006, health care cost in NZ related to obesity was $624million, or 4.5% of total health care expenditure (Lal, Moodie ,Ashton, Siahpush & Swinburn, 2012). NZ’s increasingly obesogenic society and ageing population means rates of obesity, non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are rising (NZMA, 2014). These diseases impact both an individual’s quality of life, and also place a considerable financial strain on the healthcare system. Therefore, they are important public health issues that need to be addressed in New

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