Dietetics is the branch of knowledge that surrounds diet and its impact on health and wellbeing.
Dietitians Australia define dietetics as a profession in which applies the science of food and nutrition to promote health alongside prevent and treat disease to optimise health of individuals, groups, communities and populations.
An accredited Practising dietitian (APD) is a health professional who applies the underlying science of food and nutrition to work towards improving health alongside preventing and treating disease. To become a dietitian in Australia, a person must complete a university -based bachelors or masters degree in nutrition and dietetics and then register with Dietitians Australia as an accredited practising dietitian (APD) to maintain the ability to work with clients.
Anyone can come see a dietitian. Depending on your personal needs, you may qualify for a referral to see a dietitian. Whilst you do not need a referral to see a dietitian, this often reduces or subsidises the cost of an appointment. There are a few common referral types when it comes to seeing a dietitian including Medicare referrals, NDIS referrals and DVA referrals. Outside of the referral process some clients chose to come privately at a cost and, should they wish to, may be able to claim a portion or all of this cost on their private health insurance.
Chronic Disease Management Plan (up to 5 allied health appointments per calendar year)- provided by general practitioner to eligible patients with a chronic condition.
Eating Disorder Management Plan (up to 20 dietitian appointments expiring 12 months from the date of referral) – provided by general practitioner to eligible patients diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Eligible participants with active funding for dietetic services. Amount of active funding determines number of appointments that may be accessed.
Up to 12 dietetic appointments, expires either at the completion of the 12th appointment or 12 months from the date of referral (whichever comes first).
Private appointments can be accessed at a fee. Clients may be eligible for reimbursement of a portion of the cost should they have private health insurance.
Whilst both a dietitian and nutritionist look at a similar area of science, there are a few key differences to be aware of when deciding upon a practitioner may meet your needs.
Within Australia, following completion of university studies, a dietitian must register and remain registered with Dietitians Australia for the duration of their practice. In doing so, dietitians are required to provide proof of education and competence in practising and adhere to specific standards outlined by dietetics Australia such as regular ongoing profession development and adherence and practice in alignment with evidence-based practice guidelines.
A nutritionist within Australia does not require to register under a governing and regulating body. Additional to this, within Australia the title of nutritionist is not considered a protected term. This means that anyone can label themselves a nutritionist irrespective of length or type of study and training. Some nutritionists within Australia have completed comprehensive nutrition degrees, however, some nutritionists may not have completed any study at all. As there is no compulsory regulating body for nutritionists, this can result in unclear level of training and qualification.
In accordance with the nutrition society of Australia, A nutritionist is not qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy as this is the role of a dietitian.