The Importance Of Good Nutrition In Preventative Healthcare

24th August 2018

The Importance Of Good Nutrition In Preventative Healthcare

In recent years a greater focus has been placed on the importance of supporting and educating people to make positive lifestyle changes. By living healthy, active lives people reduce their risk of developing disease and long-term conditions later in life. Jill Curry is the Dietetics Services Manager in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and she explains how dietitians play a vital role in preventative healthcare.

Earlier this year dietitians all around the UK were marking Dietitians Week by sharing positive stories and examples of best practice.  The focus was placed on how dietitians ‘do prevention’.

As health and social care services have developed over the years, it has been recognised that treating people when they become ill is more costly than developing programmes to prevent people from becoming ill in the first place.  Preventative healthcare increases people’s quality of life and can reduce the costs associated with the treatment of chronic illness.





The importance of preventative healthcare cannot be understated, particularly in relation to malnutrition.  Malnutrition is a serious condition that occurs when a person’s diet doesn’t contain the right amount of nutrients.  It means poor nutrition and can refer to:

  • Undernutrition – not getting enough nutrients
  • Overnutrition – getting more nutrients than you need

For the purposes of this blog when I refer to malnutrition I am focusing on undernutrition.

Affecting around 68,000 people in Northern Ireland, the annual healthcare cost associated with malnourished adults is £590 million.  It is an often under-recognised problem which makes people more susceptible to illness, keeps them in hospital for longer and lowers their quality of life.

Aware of this startling statistic, dietitians within the Northern Trust have taken positive action to help Trust staff, patients and their carers understand how to avoid malnutrition in a number of ways.

  • We have developed a training programme that enables ward staff to better identify patients at risk of malnutrition and subsequently provide appropriate care to help people to gain weight and recover more quickly.
  • Our Condition Management Programme Dietitian helps individuals to make better lifestyle choices in order to assist them in returning to work.
  • Our integrated rehabilitation Dietitians support patients who have recently been discharged from hospital and who may require assistance in the community to reduce the risk of re-admission.
  • Our regional Prescribing Support Dietetic team supports colleagues in primary care in the prevention, identification and management of malnutrition outside of the hospital setting.
  • Diabetes Specialist Dietitians deliver group education programmes for patients and their carers so patients will be empowered to make improvements to their lifestyle which reduces the risk of complications from long-term poor control of their blood sugars.

As well as malnutrition, obesity is also a growing problem.  There are a number of exciting developments in the Northern Trust to help people understand the importance of good nutrition and living an active and healthy lifestyle.  One such example is our COOK IT! programme.

The Cook It! Programme is a six week “hands on” nutrition education programme based on the Eatwell guide and is delivered by trained tutors.  It is designed to support individuals within local communities to enhance their practical cooking skills and learn about eating a healthy balanced diet on a limited budget.

We also have a community-led weight loss management programme called “Choose to Lose” and we engage with the voluntary and community sector to improve people’s awareness of the importance of good nutrition.

If you’re interested in our work and want to keep up-to-date with what’s happening, why not follow me and some of my colleagues on Twitter?  @jicurryDSM (Jill Curry, Dietetic Services Manager); @marshall_paula (Paula Marshall, Health Improvement Dietitian); @HSC_PSRD (HSC Prescribing Support Dietetic Team) and @BDA_Dietitians (British Dietetic Association).

Have you had experience of dietetic services yourself?  Have you ever thought about how your diet may affect your health?   Tell us in the comments section below!