For the first time, member countries of Asian Federation of Dietetic Associations (AFDA) came together to create a forum for dietetics in Asia. Hosted by Malaysian Dietetic Association under the leadership of Prof Winnie Chee, the 1st Asian Dietetics Forum was held on May 25, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
AFDA member countries that were present at the Forum included Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Pakistan, Korea, Australia and India.
Dr Chwang Leh Chii, President of AFDA, opened the Forum by welcoming the participants. Prof Sandra Capra, President & Chair of the Board of Directors, ICDA, presented the work done by ICDA in standards for dietetic education. Prof Capra said that the acceptable standards and a certification system to assist countries where dietetics is an emerging profession, will be discussed during the representatives’ workshop in Granada, Spain. Ms Sylvia Escott-Stump, ICDA Board Member from USA, spoke about the experience of 100 years in educating their dietitians and setting professional standards. Dr Judy Bauer from Dietitians Association of Australia, presented on competency standards and capacity building in Australasia.
Representatives from member countries shared their experiences on setting standards of dietetics education and practice. Given below is the synopsis of the presentations from different countries –
- Most of the countries have a minimum education of 3 years of nutrition and dietetics, and supervised practice of at least 500 hours, as mentioned in the ICDA standards.
- A couple of countries follow the Nutrition Care Process (NCP) and International Dietetics and Nutrition Terminology (IDNT) set by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, USA.
- Majority of the Asian countries do not have mandatory registration of dietitians yet, although the registration process exists.
- Continuing professional development and credits for participation are offered by some countries.
- Three of the AFDA member countries have either a reciprocity agreement with the US or eligibility for registration in the UK or an MoU with Australia.
- All countries have a larger number of dietitians working in hospitals. Other areas of work are food industry, community projects, academics, research, food service, private practice, sports industry, freelance, school programs, elder care, etc.
- Some of the challenges that AFDA member countries face include delays in licensure of dietitians, low dietitian-patient ratio, language barriers, varying dietetics curriculum from one institution to another within the same country, intrusion from unqualified persons, lack of upskilling, inadequate dietetics research, and so on. The associations are working towards overcoming the challenges and improving the existing standards.
Post-lunch, round table discussions on establishing standards for dietetics education in Asian countries were held. The general consensus of the discussions was that the ICDA standards are adequate to ensure competency of dietitians in Asia, and that dietetics could be offered at post graduate level of education.
The participants of the forum concluded that it would be important to meet once in 4 years to discuss and share member countries’ experiences to improve education and practice standards in Asia.
Sheela Krishnaswamy, RD
Editor, Dietetics Around the World