I spent 4 weeks at the Burnaby Public Health Unit with my internship partner (we’re practically conjoined twins by this point). The focus of public health dietitians in Fraser Health is child health, specifically, children under the age of 5. Why young children, you ask? The reason is that a healthy start in life can play a large role in preventing health problems during adulthood. In short, investing in children’s health has significant long-term impact.
The rotation felt like a crash course in infant feeding and infant nutrition. It’s been a while since I had read up on those topics, so it was good that our preceptor gave us plenty of time to familiarize ourselves with the most current guidelines and recommendations.
The expert in child feeding is Ellyn Satter, an American dietitian and social worker. Not only did she write several books on the topic, her institute also conducts research on child feeding practices and problematic eating behaviours in children. Much of the guidance around infant and child feeding used by Fraser Health (and many other health organizations), come from her.
Part of the public health dietitian’s role is to be an educator and resource person for public health nurses. Unfortunately, public health RDs no longer provide direct patient care, so they work closely with nursing colleagues to make sure that parents and caregivers are receiving the nutrition messages they need.
One initiative that the public health RDs are involved with is called “Avenues of Change”. The project aims to bring the LIVE 5-2-1-0 message to families in the Guildford area of Surrey. LIVE 5-2-1-0 is a slogan aimed at older children (I think 5 and up? My memory is fuzzy on the details). It stands for: eating 5 servings of vegetables and fruits, limiting screen time to 2 hours or less, enjoying 1 hour of physical activity, and drinking 0 sugary drinks. A lot of resources went into supporting this project, including a few new handouts about infant and children nutrition. My preceptor and another dietitian developed a workshop which gave nurses an opportunity to practice using the new handouts to counsel hypothetical clients. After observing their presentation, my intern partner and myself changed the workshop slightly, and did our own presentation with another group of public health nurses. The nurses really seemed to enjoy it! They asked relevant and thought-provoking questions based on their experiences with parents, and gave great answers to hypothetical scenarios from the workshop.
During this placement, not only did I learn about infant and child nutrition, I also witnessed the importance of building great relationships with one’s colleagues. This is especially important for public health dietitians, who work with many different groups of people (nurses, project managers, other RDs) throughout the day.