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Report: A critical Missing Ingredient - The case for increased dietetic input in New Zealand’s health and disability system

Purpose: Determine the need for and value of dietitians to the health and disability system in Aotearoa, focusing on three health conditions with major health, economical and societal consequences (diabetes, cancer, and mental illness).

Key results:

  • For every dollar spent on dietetic support in primary care, the country receives a cost saving benefit of up to $99 over five years.
  • Up to a quarter of GP visits are nutrition-related and could be covered by a dietitian instead.
  • Nutrition intervention outcomes are greatest when delivered by dietitians compared to all other health professionals. They are also delivered at a lower cost.
  • There is a shortage of over 1150 dietitians in Aotearoa just to cover these three major health conditions. New Zealand’s current practicing dietetic workforce provides a ratio of only 9.6 FTE per 100,000 population. This is 30% lower than Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA.
  • Inequities in health disadvantage Māori and only 4.1% of the current dietetic workforce whakapapa to the whenua of Aotearoa.
  • Without specific measures to address the dietetic workforce shortage, modelling shows the calculated ratios will not improve. 

Key recommendations:

  • Develop and fund interdisciplinary models of care with a focus on creating more dietetic roles in primary care.
  • Accelerate and fund the recruitment and training of dietitians, especially Māori dietitians.
  • Review the prescribing rights to allow dietitians to prescribe common medications used in the common conditions we treat, enabling more comprehensive and responsive care.
  • Establish national competency frameworks for specialist and generalist dietetic and nutrition roles.

Read the full report here.

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