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A1. The public perception of the role of dietitians compared with physiotherapists and radiographers

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Background There is increasing awareness of the importance of nutrition among health professionals and the public. This has led to a growing demand for dietetic and nutritional advice. However, dietitians may not be widely recognized by the public as experts in this field. Little research has been done on the public perception of dietitians and other health professionals.

Aim To assess public perception in Aberdeen of the role of dietitians by means of a questionnaire. It was decided to compare dietetics with physiotherapy, a well known health profession and radiography, which is probably on the same level of public perception as dietitians. The questionnaire was also used to determine who the public would go to first for nutrition information.

Method A random sample of 165 individuals was recruited from two local supermarkets.

Results Results show that the public had a good perception of the role of physiotherapists but a poorer perception of the dietitians’ and the radiographers’ roles. Doctors were frequently seen as nutrition decision makers. It was found that 26% of the sample population thought dietitians distributed and collected hospital menus and 21% thought dietitians prepared meals in hospital. Doctors were the preferred choice for nutrition information, however, respondents made wide use of the media for their information. Dietitians were the second choice for the majority of respondents, however, health food shops were a more popular first choice for younger people. Access to a dietitian was mentioned as a problem, and, for this reason, was often put after doctor, practice nurse and health food shop as a source for nutrition information.

Conclusions It is recommended that dietitians make themselves more accessible to the public. Dietetics could make more use of the media to promote what the provision does and to provide sound nutritional information for the public.

Document Type: Abstract


Affiliations: School of Food and Consumer Studies, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen

Publication date: 2000-10-01

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