Nutrition plays an essential role in prevention and treatment of a large number of diseases. Moreover, with the use of the right diet, socio-economic health differences can be reduced to a large extent. Despite the importance of nutrition in prevention and as (support for) the treatment of diseases, the positive contribution of nutrition is often underestimated by doctors and policy makers.
Dietitians are experts in the field of nutrition and behaviour in relation to disease and health. It is also clear that there is a great need for more research and for (new) developments within the field of dietetics. To determine the need for such research, the Dutch Association of Dietitians (NVD) made an inventory of knowledge gaps in dietetics by literature search and collecting questions from dietitians, clients and a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
Almost 200 knowledge gaps were formulated. These knowledge gaps formed the basis for 21 research questions. The research questions were formulated in such a way that they are applicable to many conditions and cover various knowledge gaps.
The research questions are based on inventory and prioritization of knowledge gaps and subdivided into seven categories. Examples of such research questions according to category are as shown:
What is the most suitable method for measuring and monitoring body composition and / or nutritional status in a specific client/ group in dietetics practice?
How can a nutritional / dietary intervention optimally match the self-reliance and behavioural change of the client (patient- centred care, self-management, health literacy, positive health aspects)?
What are the most important data (both hard endpoints and quality of life) per disease / dietary treatment to record in a standardized way, so that the results of the (preventive) intervention by the dietitian can be visualised?
In what way and at what moment can the expertise of dietitians (better) be embedded to limit threatening health loss and a high burden of disease from the perspective of prevention?
- Interprofessional cooperation and substitution
What is the added value of combining an intervention by dietitians with an intervention by other professionals allied to healthcare in various disorders?
- Technology and innovation
What is the applicability and added value of new technology in the diagnosis, treatment and evaluation by dietitians?
- Knowledge and data infrastructure
How can we set up a knowledge and data infrastructure in the field of dietetics to achieve sustainable and (cost) effective data collection and knowledge exchange for the development and substantiation of a quality system?
The first three categories (diagnostics, intervention, evaluation) include the methodical process of the dietitian as a care provider. We added the category ‘prevention’ because dietetics is also important in public health. In addition to these categories, developments affecting the work of dietitians, such as interprofessional collaboration, possibilities of substitution and innovation, research questions are presented in separate categories. The need for an overview and exchange of research in the field of dietetics has led to the category 'knowledge and data infrastructure'.
This is the first research agenda in dietetics in Europe. A wide range of knowledge gaps emerged from the inventory of dietitians, researchers, stakeholders and clients. It is evident that there is a great need for research in the field of dietetics.
Scientific research provides evidence for dietetic care. For care that matters, care that is patient-oriented and where the quality of life is paramount. The research agenda offers a valuable document for the professional group. It is a good basis to organise the research that supports daily practice.
This research agenda is a dynamic document. New developments and results from research will lead to modification of knowledge gaps, research questions and prioritization. We will search for a form to make this a useful digital instrument.
In the Netherlands, this research agenda, together with the research agendas of other professionals allied to health care, will be used for the preparation of a multi-year research program for these professional groups.
We invite Dietetic Associations to take note of this research agenda and to investigate the similarities and differences. This offers opportunities to cooperate on the international level in the field of research within dietetics.
Marieke Plas, Wineke Remijnse worked in collaboration with a core group of Professors and Researchers in dietetics from the four Universities of Applied Sciences that offer education in dietetics in Netherlands:
Dr. Marian de van der Schueren, Professor, HAN University of Applied Sciences
Dr. Elke Naumann, Associate Professor, HAN University of Applied Sciences
Dr. Harriët Jager-Wittenaar, Professor Hanze, University of Applied Sciences
Dr. Jacqueline Langius, Head Research Centre The Hague, University of Applied Sciences
Dr. Michael Tieland, Researcher Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.
The Netherlands - Dutch Association of Dietitians