|The members of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) recognised the 21st birthday of the association, marked by an enjoyable party, during the biennial congress. This was an opportunity to look back on what the association has achieved in past decades, and to look forward to coming events.
Members of ADSA have elected new branch and executive committees, all of whom have taken office. The Association is delighted that past President, Rene Smalberger, will be serving a second term of office as President. This will strengthen the continuity of recent projects and all will benefit from her ongoing enthusiastic leadership.
ADSA is proud of the smooth functioning of the Continuing Education Programme and the level of participation from members. Continuing education is now mandatory for registration with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa. The early voluntary system, introduced for dietitians 14 years ago, has made compliance easily achievable. A new aspect has been introduced to widen the scope of ways to get points, and that is through personal Learning Portfolios.
A new portfolio has been introduced to the Executive Committee on a trial basis, Public Sector Dietitians. Many dietitians who work in the public sector have challenges that limit their participation in ADSA, and their professional practice. ADSA plans to actively seek ways to assist this category of dietitians, starting with formative research identifying issues which should be addressed. This work will also allow ADSA to build the profile of dietetics among a wider section of the country’s population.
ADSA continues to participate in National Nutrition Week, organised by the National Department of Health. The theme during 2009 was, “Healthy eating for children”. Messages were taken to primary schools, emphasising foods that should be included in a healthy eating pattern. The chosen theme forms part of the Healthy Lifestyle Campaign of the Department of Health. Three key messages highlighted during this campaign were: Enjoy a variety of foods; Drink lots of clean, safe water; and Be active! During NNW ADSA worked with a number of partner organisations to take a more detailed nutrition message to primary schools regarding healthy eating choices. Teachers and tuck shop managers were invited to a supermarket tour, to learn more about healthy eating options, based on the Guidelines for Healthy Eating. This hands-on method of learning proved to be enjoyable and was appreciated by participants.
A drive to promote understanding of dietetics as a career option was launched by the previous executive committee and based on its success is now being expanded. Called “Adopt a school” members are invited to approach a local high school and speak to learners about dietetics.
South Africa has recently passed legislation controlling registration as a nutritionist. At present the Professional Board for Dietetics, of the Health Professionals Council, will oversee both dietitians and nutritionists. A challenge in this regard is going to be the prevention of the term by international “celebrity” nutritionists, who have powerful public relations programmes, and vast financial resources to promote themselves.
The ADSA website http://www.adsa.org.za continues to develop, and statistics of use show that it is well used. As internet access becomes more widely accessible, the site can be used more actively as a channel of communication with members and the public. Member-only access to part of the site is to be introduced and public information included.