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    National Association Reports
    Dietitian Contact Centres in Canada Enhance Access to Trusted Nutrition Advice
    2010
    Vol. 17 Issue 2
     
    Country: Canada
    Canada is a large country with 10 provinces and three northern territories. Three provinces now provide a province-wide, government funded dietitian contact centre. Dietitian contact centres have evolved in Canada due to a greater emphasis on nutrition as a key risk factor in prevention and management of chronic diseases. Dietitians are identified by Canadians as the most trusted source of nutrition advice and yet access to dietetics services has been limited due to geography, wait times, user fees and not enough dietitians available to meet the population’s health needs. Dietitian call centres are part of the solution to supporting better access to dietitians. Now, almost half of the population of Canada can access a dietitian directly by phone through these three call centres.

    The Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition (PEN) knowledge database
    ( http://www.dieteticsatwork.com/pen/ ) developed by Dietitians of Canada (DC) provides the foundation to assure evidence-based, consistent responses to client nutrition and healthy eating questions. DC has enhanced PEN for use in the contact centre environment to support quick navigation, knowledge translation for consumer audiences, efficient call lengths, distribution of follow-up materials to clients, community service referrals, data collection and reporting. This custom version of PEN is licensed to provincial governments to support dietitian contact centre activities. Feedback data indicates that this customized PEN supports dietitians to answer over 90% of the incoming calls.

    For the most populated province of Canada, Ontario, DC also manages the operations of the contact centre. EatRight Ontario contact centre provides 3 ways to connect with the expertise of a Registered Dietitian (RD):
    - toll-free telephone line – open 5 days a week from 9am to 5pm, with evening hours 2 days a week
    - an Email-a-RD service
    - web site at www.ontario.ca/eatright

    Who is using the EatRight Ontario service?
    - 92% of calls are from general public; 8% are from health intermediaries
    - Almost 80% of users are women
    - Majority of clients are 31-50 years; have completed higher education
    - 98% of calls are in English
    - There is good distribution of use from all regions of the province.

    What are people calling about?
    - most popular topic is general healthy eating, with lots of questions about feeding infants and young children, menu planning, food purchase and preparation, nutrients
    - next popular category is chronic disease, especially diabetes
    - weight management
    - digestive issues

    What are callers saying about the service?
    - Users are extremely satisfied with the service. Almost all would recommend service to others.
    - The features that they value include --- the service was easy to use, trustworthy nutrition information, convenient hours, ability to talk to a Registered Dietitian
    - Over 90% self-reported a positive change in food choices.

    How is the Contact Centre infrastructure being used to support provincial policy and strategies?
    Now that EatRight Ontario (ERO) provides quick and easy access from all regions to Registered Dietitians, the existing infrastructure can be used to support policy implementation and programs of the provincial government Health ministry, as well as other government ministries.
    Some examples include:
    - ERO is supporting the Ontario Diabetes Strategy with prevention activities, such as culturally adapting diabetes-related client resources to target populations at increased risk for diabetes; enhancing PEN database with more diabetes content; developing more interactive or dynamic tools for ERO web site e.g. videos and menu planning tool; needs assessment with cultural groups at increased risk for diabetes
    - ERO RDs are a resource for parents who have participated in preschool nutrition screening program
    - The Education ministry has released a policy for schools that limits what foods can be served; ERO is a key contact point for teachers, caterers, manufacturers to help them understand and implement the policy.
    - A collaboration with Agriculture ministry on recipe development using local products and food preparation videos.

    We at Dietitians of Canada are familiar with dietitian contact centre services in Canada. However, we would be excited to learn more about dietitian contact centres operating in other parts of our global community.

    Helen Haresign, RD, MSc, FDC
    VP Development
    Dietitians of Canada
    hharesign@dietitians.ca