Survey of disability-related content in Australian dietetics programs

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Abstract

Aim

Nutrition and dietetic services are an important component of healthcare for people living with a disability. The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia is providing more opportunities for individuals to access these services from an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). The aim of this research was to identify how students in Australian tertiary dietetics programs are being prepared to provide these services to people with a disability.

Methods

A purpose-built questionnaire with eight open-ended questions was developed by the researchers to describe the disability-related content of university and professional placement learning opportunities and was distributed to all course conveners (or their nominated representative) of dietetics programs accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia. The qualitative data were analysed using a descriptive approach. Responses were sorted into response category themes and counted to identify common themes.

Results

A representative from 14 of 18 programs (78% response rate) participated in the survey in September and October 2016. Results indicated that although 12 programs incorporate disability-related topics into the curriculum, content was inconsistent and of varying depths. Four programs offered a disability-specific placement opportunity and nine discussed the NDIS to varying degrees.

Conclusions

It is important that graduates are provided with adequate learning opportunities in the area of disability to ensure that they are prepared for entry-level practise in this area. Further research may provide insight into the skills, knowledge and behaviours used by APDs working in disability to identify those that need to be strengthened in dietetics programs.

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