Dietetics graduates get real world skills

09 December 2003
In a coup for the Division of Nutrition and Dietetics, all 12 of their graduating students will be the first and only dietetic graduates in the country to be presented with an official certificate for the training they received in the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding.

The 12, who are set to receive their BSc (Med Hons) in nutrition and dietetics on December 8, will be handed their National Department of Health and UNICEF accredited certificates at a pre-graduation celebratory function.

The certificates will be presented to the students by Lulama Sigasana, the provincial health department's assistant director for nutrition.

Also attending the function will be Joan Huskisson, who founded the UCT dietetics programme over ten years ago. She retired at the end of 1999.

"We are thrilled to have such prominent people celebrating our graduation achievements with us," said lecturer Aila Meyer. "The promotion, support and protection of breastfeeding is currently one of the biggest national health priorities in our country.

"The accreditation means that our graduates will be able to implement breastfeeding policies and strategies, without any further training from the Department of Health, in their respective workplaces during their compulsory year of community service in 2004."

Breastfeeding is considered to be the cornerstone of optimal infant nutrition, providing health, economic, social and environmental benefits for infants, mothers, households, communities and nations. UNICEF estimates that breastfeeding prevents over six million deaths annually of children under one year of age.

"In many countries, including South Africa, malnutrition, increased illness and death rates occur from diluted formula, unsafe water and poor hygiene. Breastfeeding is widely recognised as the solution to the problems of infant mortality and morbidity related to poverty, poor sanitation and malnutrition, all of which are prevalent in South Africa," Meyer explained.

The nutrition and dietetics programme at UCT is the only postgraduate dietetics programme in the country, and includes subjects on clinical and community nutrition, food science and food service management.

Earlier this year, the National Department of Health issued a challenge to institutions to make breastfeeding training a priority in their curricula and to ensure that students receive a minimum of 18 hours of lactation management training by the time they graduate.

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