The health unit employs Registered Dietitians (RDs) who must belong to the College of Dietitians of Ontario (www.cdo.on.ca). They may be employed as either Public Health Dietitians or Public Health Nutritionists, depending on their other qualifications and their job responsibilities. A Registered Dietitian must have a four-year university degree in foods and nutrition plus a dietetic internship of 35 or more weeks in length. A Public Health Nutritionist is a Registered Dietitian who also holds a master's degree.
Public health nutritionists and dietitians work with other health unit staff and a wide range of community partners and decision-makers to promote and support nutrition actions that optimize healthy growth and development and help to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Some examples of public health nutrition-related activities include:
- providing up-to-date scientifically sound nutrition information to health professionals, educators, policy makers, the media and others in the community
- promoting and supporting community services that help to develop practical nutrition-related knowledge and skills such as planning healthy meals and snacks for children, understanding food labels, making healthy choices when grocery shopping or dining out, etc.
- providing advice and guidance on food policies/nutrition guidelines to schools, workplaces, Ontario Early Years Centres, emergency feeding programs, municipal recreation facilities and other community settings
- taking part in community-based research such as the Nutritious Food Basket Surveys in Simcoe and Muskoka.
- contributing nutrition expertise to advocacy efforts at local, provincial and other levels to address areas of concern such as food security for low-income families; increasing the availability of healthy food choices in schools, community rec centres and other public settings; placing restrictions on the marketing of low-nutrient foods and drinks to children.
- working with community groups and organizations to help promote and support well-recognized nutrition programs and resources such as Eat Well to Excel and Food For Thought student nutrition programs, the Eat Smart! School Cafeteria Program, Good Food Box, Northern Healthy Eating Project and type 2 diabetes prevention initiatives like Unplug and PLAY.
- helping to train the “next generation” of public health dietitians by providing learning opportunities to dietetic interns in the Simcoe County Dietetic Internship program and internships from other parts of Ontario
It is important to note that the titles “Dietitian” and “Registered Dietitian” are both protected by law and indicate an extensive and carefully regulated level of education and training, as described previously. Unlike Registered Dietitians, individuals who use similar sounding titles such as “Nutritionist”, “Registered Nutritionist”, “Registered Nutritional Consultant” and “Nutrition Consultant” are not regulated by law and are not required to have the same extensive level of education and training. Thus there are no legally-established safeguards in place to ensure that a person who uses any of these titles practices safely and ethically.