News from Swedish Association of Clinical Dietitians (DRF) 
  • The Swedish Association of Clinical Dietitians (DRF) has been promoting the value of nutrition and healthy eating habits through various projects since 2013. Two years earlier, The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare had released their "Evidence-based National Guidelines for Methods of Preventing Disease", presenting methods for disease prevention through supporting patients' efforts to change unhealthy habits, notably unhealthy eating, tobacco use, hazardous alcohol use, and physical inactivity. The same year, the Swedish government launched a fund where healthcare professionals' organizations could seek finance for promoting the use of these National Guidelines.

    Since then, DRF has worked with projects on nutrition and dietary habits in relation to surgery, overall health, patient-centred care and patient-centred nutrition in hospitals, children and youth, migration, mental health, pregnancy, development of tools for preparing healthy meals targeting persons with functional disabilities, and an interprofessional collaboration with a rheumatology clinic. Our main project, however, is that focusing on nutrition and cancer prevention.
    Cancer prevention
    DRF started the cancer prevention and nutrition project in 2015. At that time, neither healthcare professionals nor cancer organizations worked with nutrition and cancer prevention. Awareness of the subject was poor and some professionals doubted the evidence. Patients with cancer reported that healthcare professionals had told them that “it doesn’t matter what you eat – you cannot affect your risk of cancer through nutrition”, leading them to search for information elsewhere.
    The aim of this project has been to increase patients' access to advice on healthy eating habits from healthcare professionals that is evidence-based, individualized and based on their needs.

    Dissemination of knowledge and agenda setting

    Raising awareness and educating dietitians and other healthcare professionals has been central to the project. In 2016, DRF invited Rachel Thompson, Head of Research Interpretation at the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), to participate in one-day conferences held in three Swedish cities, giving lectures about primary and secondary cancer prevention, communication, and methods used at WCRF. We cooperated with the Swedish Food Agency, the Regional Cancer Centers (RCC), and local hospitals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in these cities, reaching wide audiences. The aim was to educate, but also to promote collaborations with other organizations. During 2017 to 2019 many people active in health care, in various professions, participated in conferences and lectures organized by DRF.
    DRF has also translated into Swedish brochures from WCRF on primary and secondary cancer prevention, distributing thousands of copies to dietitians and other healthcare professionals in hospitals and primary health care.

    Collaboration with other actors

    During the project DRF has collaborated with different actors such as RCCs, regions, professional associations, and the Swedish Cancer Society. We initiated these collaborations to raise their awareness about cancer prevention and nutrition and to encourage them towards working with the topic. Cooperating with patient organizations has also been important, since patients want information about cancer and nutrition from the healthcare system.
    National knowledge management
    Two of the current project leaders are involved in the national knowledge management, facilitating influence over national guidelines related to prevention and treatment of cancer.

    Results - Nutrition and cancer on the agenda

    The project has raised awareness and contributed to increased knowledge about nutrition and cancer in several groups within health care, RCCs, patient associations and representatives of various authorities. The importance of food in primary and secondary cancer prevention is now on the agenda and the issue is raised more widely. The project has contributed to spreading evidence-based knowledge about healthy eating and cancer, optimising chances of healthcare professionals giving correct advice, thus increasing patient safety.  Patients today are more likely to receive evidence-based and individualized advice based on their needs, preferences and values, and to benefit from discussing with their healthcare professionals advice found online.
    The initiative was aimed at actors in all parts of health care, from patient associations to healthcare professionals and decision-makers: this breadth of initiative has increased the possibilities of influencing a patient-centred approach.  Several organizations with whom we have cooperated now employ experts on nutrition and will continue working with cancer prevention even when DRF no longer receives project funding. The project has led to an increased focus on food and the importance of nutrition in connection with cancer prevention.
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