|The European Union funded a network of dietetic associations, higher education and other agencies across Europe (2006-09) to facilitate and realise growth in the quality of education for dietitians. The European Commission (2007) and the WHO (2008) have set goals and an action plan to improve the nutritional health of Europe and this will require the responsiveness of both academia and the dietetic profession to engage fully in lifelong learning, reflective and evidenced based practice. The 28,000 plus dietitians in Europe are key to meeting strategic goals for better nutritional health. DIETS has provided a successful model for cooperative working across large geographical areas between 128 individual organisations, coordinated through the University of Plymouth with The European Federation of Associations of Dietitians (EFAD). DIETS quickly engaged dietitians through organising face to face visits (see DIETS Report 2, 2009a) and a virtual communication network (see DIETS Report 1 and 3 2009 b&c) and the DIETS website ( www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu ). The public pages of the web site were accessed by 112 countries in 2009 and 17% of these visits were from non-European countries. Regular Newsletters and conferences (DIETS 2009d) allowed partners to be kept informed and inform eg at the 2009 conference 49 posters were displayed.
The 48 exchange visits between academic and practice placement teachers over three years resulted in information about assessment, teaching methods and best practice plus the development of draft guidelines for quality practice placements (DIETS Report 2009d). Dietetic competences for European dietitians were developed and unanimously adopted by EFAD delegates and translated into 15 European languages (EFAD, 2009). These statements complement the European Academic and Practitioner Standards for Dietetics (EFAD, 2005) used by Higher Education throughout Europe.
However important these effects have been and will continue to be a critical question must be asked; has the DIETS project had an impact on policy change for dietetic education in Europe? The European competence statements, when used widely, will encourage the development of a safe and competent professional approach by dietitians across Europe. As standards are benchmarked it will be possible for dietitians to move more freely around Europe providing the same level and quality of service and could lead to a Europe wide registration of dietitians. During the project four countries introduced bachelor degrees and DIETS was asked to engage with the French Minister of Health and support the German Dietetic Association to discuss moving education in those countries to bachelor level. DIETS and EFAD were able to draw on data gathered Europe-wide as evidence; a powerful force for change.
EFAD has now formally adopted the Network as their Education Committee and integrated the DIETS and EFAD websites thereby sustaining the impact that the Network has, and will have, on policy change for dietetic education in Europe. The powerful dissemination network of dietitians (DIETS Report 4, 2009e) is a critical legacy ensuring that dietitians continue to work together, whether in academia or practice, providing a strong axis for change to education and an excellent basis for further development of the Profession in Europe.
Anne de Looy, Professor of Dietetics and Network Coordinator, University Plymouth UK
DIETS (2009) Proceedings of the First DIETS Conference held in Plymouth 2007 & Second DIETS Conference held in Frankfurt 2008 available at http://www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu
DIETS (2009) Proceedings of the Third DIETS Conference held in Lisbon 2009http://www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu
DIETS (2009a) Report 2: Learning about European practice placement education from each otherhttp://www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu
DIETS (2009b) Report 1: Building a technologically informed information and Communication network in Europe http://www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu
DIETS (2009c) Report 3: Using information technology to share experiences and enhance communication skills http://www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu
DIETS (2009d) Report 5: Quality assurance, dietetic competence and dietetic practice placement standards http://www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu
DIETS (2009e) Report 4: The dissemination Potential of a European Networkhttp://www.thematicnetworkdietetics.eu
EC Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues (2007)
Commission of the European Communities (2007) A White Paper: COM (2007) 279 final
( http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2007:0279:FIN:EN:PDF )
EFAD (2009) European Dietetic Competences and their Performance Indicators attained at the point of qualification and entry to the profession of Dietetics available at http://www.efad.eu
EFAD (2005) European Academic and Practitioner Standards for Dietetics available athttp://www.efad.eu
WHO (2008) European action plan for food and nutrition policy 2007-2012
WHO Regional Office for Europe, Denmark