A lecturer in dietetics at The University of Nottingham has helped to start a campaign to encourage more men to consider taking up careers in the field of nutrition.
As part of Dietitians Week — the world’s first awareness week profiling the work and value of dietitians — Dr Duane Mellor, a dietitian at The University of Nottingham is looking at why the profession is almost exclusively female.
Dr Mellor said: “There should be more diversity in the profession. Food is important to everybody and food and health is important to everybody. Men are interested in food, men are interested in health, but for some reason men are not looking to dietetics as a career. It is an exciting, changing career and there’s no obvious reason why men shouldn’t be interested in qualifying as registered dietitians.”
Dietitians Week, which runs from Monday 9 June to Friday 13 June 2014 is led by the British Dietetic Association
(BDA). It will promote the profession nationally and globally. Registered Dietitians (RDs) are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level.
Less than four per cent of dietitians in the UK are male. That means less than 280 of the BDA’s 7,000 plus members are men. The BDA says this is not just a UK phenomenon, men represent a tiny minority of the profession globally.
Courses in nutrition
The University of Nottingham offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses run by the School of Biosciences for students interested in the field of nutrition. These include the UKs only integrated undergraduate masters course (Master of Nutrition), which leads to eligibility to register as a dietitian. With close links to the Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy and local hospitals across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire there are opportunities for students to clinical placements as well as pursue research projects that are directly related to nutrition and human health.
The number of male students currently stands at a ratio of approximately one in every 20 students
Ravi Nagar is about to complete the second year of his Masters in Nutrition. His Asian background led to a keen interest in diabetes which is predominant in people from ethnic backgrounds. As part of a summer placement scheme he carried out a research project on the effects of a healthy diet on Type 2 Diabetes prevention and management. The results, presented at the recent British Conference for Undergraduate Nutrition in Nottingham, showed a significant improvement in weight management and glycaemic control in people with Type 2 Diabetes.
Paphani Chalashika is a PhD student from Botswana. He is researching the nutritional status and feeding practices of HIV exposed infants born in his home country with babies who haven’t been exposed to the virus. He originally trained as a dietitian in Australia and has worked in Botswana before coming to Nottingham to undertake his research training. He is hoping to register as a dietitian in the UK later this year.
Producing healthy meals on a budget
As part of Dietitians Week Dr Mellor and nutrition students at The University of Nottingham have produced a series of short videos to talk about their research and topical issues such as how much fruit and veg we should eat a day and how that can be made easy. They are also offering advice on food boxes and meals that can be produced on tight budgets.
Muniirah Mbabazi, from Uganda, is researching nutrition policy in Uganda for her PhD. In the past she has also carried out research into sustainable diets, including edible insects. She helped to produce a video for people involved in the supply of food bank parcels.
Iga Kasperek was President and is now Vice-President of the University’s Nutrition and Dietetics Society. She is now in her 3rd year of a Masters in Nutrition. Her final year research project will be on the effect of Eat and Cook sessions on food choices in students. Her NHS placements included two weeks at the Nottingham City Hospital and she is about to go to Sheffield Hospital for a 12 week clinical placement. She has helped to produce a video on a recipe she created for the student’s HealthyU cook book
Dr Mellor said: “A more balanced and representative workforce may have more in common with the communities they work within, as communities tend to exist on a 50/50 female to male ratio. Dietetics is a growing and vibrant profession in the UK, using messages of enjoyment of food to improve health. A more diverse profession should benefit and further this growth.”
Siân O’Shea, Chairman of the BDA, said: “In some shape or another, we all ‘do’ food and nutrition in or lives, regardless of gender, race, age, geographical location or any other factor, yet the dietetic profession seems to be an almost female-only profession. I have often wondered why this is and would genuinely love to hear any feedback on this interesting fact.
“I would strongly encourage anybody thinking about their future career, with an interest in food and nutrition, to think about dietetics as it is such a broad and wonderful career, working in the NHS, private practice, the food industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, Non-Government Organisations and government, the list just goes on and on.
“Dietetics is a great and growing profession, as such it should be an obvious choice to both men and women.”
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also the most popular university among graduate employers, the world’s greenest university, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the World's Top 75 universities by the QS World University Rankings.
Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…