Dietetic Staffing and Workforce Capacity Planning in Primary Health Care
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The addition of Registered Dietitians (RD) to primary health care (PHC) teams has been shown to be effective in improving health and economic outcomes with reported savings of $5 to $99 New Zealand dollars for every $1 spent on nutrition interventions. Despite proven benefits, very few Canadians have access to dietitians in PHC. This paper summarizes the literature on dietetic staffing ratios in PHC in Canada and other countries with similar PHC systems. Examples are shared to demonstrate how dietitians and others can utilize published staffing ratios to review dietitian services within their settings, identify gaps, and advocate for additional positions to meet population needs. The majority of published dietetic staffing ratios describe ranges of 1 RD: 15 000-18 500 patients, 1 RD for every 4-14 family physicians, or 1 RD for every 300-500 patients with diabetes. These staffing ratios may be inadequate as surveys report ongoing issues of limited access to dietetic counseling, under-serviced populations, and a shortage of dietitians to meet current population needs in PHC. Newer projection models based on specific population needs and ongoing workforce data are required to identify professional practice issues and accurately estimate dietetic staffing requirements in PHC.
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