European Federation of Associations of Dietitians
The beginning of a fascinating story for European dietitians took place in Roskilde, Denmark in 2003 when a challenge was thrown down by the European Federation of the Associations of Dietitians (EFAD) to meet professional issues such as the diversity of education, registration and quality of practice in dietetics across Europe.
Work started and in 2005 The European Dietetic Academic and Practitioner Standards (www.efad.org) were prepared and unanimously adopted by EFAD delegates. These standards are often referred to as ‘The Benchmark’ and of course that is what they are, they set a standard for the education of dietitians in Europe. Not only are they a standard but also they became a very important ‘political’ lever to support dietitians in some European countries to improve pre-qualifying education. Four years after the Benchmark publication at least three countries in Europe have moved from a diploma based qualifying programme to degree and another country has been given governmental backing to do the same. This is a terrific achievement for dietitians in Europe working together.
But it was also clear that funds were required to progress development of the profession in Europe further. A small team, with the backing of EFAD, developed a successful bid in 2006 for about 1million Euros. The money awarded by the EU was used to form a Thematic Network called ‘Dietitians Improving Education and Training Standards’ or DIETS.
The DIETS Network had 128 partner institutions, Non-governmental Organisations and Associations from some 28 European countries. Between 2006 and 2009 three conferences were held, 8 Newsletters and 5 reports were produced. 48 exchange visits were made between dietitians and their academic colleagues across Europe to learn more about culture, education and dietetic practice. All of the information, including documents used to assess practice across Europe, is on the DIETS website www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu
DIETS produced pan European Dietetic Competence Statements and their performance indicators for newly qualified European dietitians. These were adopted by EFAD in 2009 and are available on the EFAD website in 15 European languages. Practice Placement Standards were adopted by EFAD in 2010 and are also on the EFAD website. The Roskilde Declaration has now been nearly fulfilled as has a subsequent Taormina Resolution (2007). However not quite!
On 1st October 2010, again funded by the EU, DIETS2 began to carry on the good work started in DIETS. DIETS2 has partners from all 31 countries of Europe and ICDA as an Associated Partner. This three year project will look specifically at practice placements in novel surroundings; produce a ‘toolkit’ for European dietitians concerning Life Long Learning; become involved in promoting the use of ICT for learning and especially the production of resources for teaching enquiry based learning. In addition DIETS2 will produce dietetic competences for Master level and doctoral level dietitians. As in the past EFAD is a key partner and DIETS has now been formally adopted as part of the Education Committee of EFAD. This not only endorses DIETS but also ensures sustainability.
The first DIETS2 conference was held in Amsterdam in December 2010, with the main topics including student training in Ireland, information technology & communication, standardisation of dietetic practice terminology and life long learning to support dietetic specializations. Workshops brought together pan-European groups of dietitians from the speciality areas of administrative, public health, obesity, renal and paediatrics. Future conferences will be held in Spain in 2011 and Bulgaria in 2012.
So it is an unfolding story of the progress of dietitians to influence their education and professional standards in Europe. The work done by DIETS augments that undertaken in individual countries and by sharing and supporting each other improvements to practice are facilitated. Please visit the DIETS2 website regularly (www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu) to follow progress.
Anne de Looy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DIETS Coordinator and University of Plymouth
President, European Federation of the Associations of Dietitians
The planning group for DIETS2 relaxing in Rembrandt Square, Amsterdam (countries represented Slovenia, Netherlands, France, Germany and Sweden)
Anne de Looy with the banner for the 3rd DIETS conference in Lisbon, 2009