Population and Public Health Dietetic Practice in Canada

Population and Public Health is one of three broad areas of dietetic practice in Canada. This section will provide you with an overview of Population and Public Health, and describe how, where and with whom dietitians work in this area of practice.

An example is provided to help you understand the role of a dietitian working in Population and Public Health in Canada.

What is Population and Public Health?

The main focus of Population and Public Health is to promote the health of groups (e.g. school-aged children or workplace employees), communities (e.g. residents of a small neighbourhood) and populations (e.g. older adults) through the development of nutrition and health programs and policies.1

Population and Public Health uses a broad definition of health,2 which includes the physical, mental, and social dimensions that influence people’s sense of well-being throughout their lives. This broad definition of health recognizes the importance of the social determinants of health.

Population and Public Health practice is deeply rooted in equity and social justice. These are the key values that guide this area of practice in order to distribute and achieve health for all Canadians.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are two key components of Population and Public Health practice.3,4 These strategies aim to keep people healthy and prevent diseases from occurring.5

Health Promotion

Health promotion is the process of enabling individuals, groups and communities to increase control over, and to improve, their health.

Examples of health promotion strategies:

  • A dietitian may deliver educational programs to new immigrants in order promote healthier food choices.
  • As member of an advisory committee, a dietitian may advocate for public policy that promotes affordable access to healthy foods.

Health promotion enables healthy decision making and promotes living conditions that support healthier, longer lives.

Disease Prevention

Disease prevention is the process of preventing specific diseases by reducing the risks of the disease, identifying risk factors, or detecting early stages of disease.

An example of a disease prevention strategy:

  • A dietitian reviews recent evidence about the amount of calcium and vitamin D consumption required in Canadian adults over 50 years of age to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Disease prevention aims to prevent and reduce the incidence and impact of preventable diseases through diet as a modifiable risk factor.

1 Epp, J. (1986) Achieving Health for All. A Health Promotion Framework. Retrieved July 14, 2015 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/pubs/system-regime/1986-frame-plan-promotion/index-eng.php

2 Public Health Agency of Canada. Population Health: Defining Health. Retrieved July 9, 2015 from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/approach-approche/index-eng.php#def_health

3 Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (2005). Guide to Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Retrieved July 9, 2015 from http://www.on.lung.ca/document.doc?id=1288

4 The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada. AFMC Primer on Population Health .(n.d.). Retrieved July 9, 2015 from http://phprimer.afmc.ca/inner/primer_contents

5 Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (2005). Guide to Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Retrieved October 20, 2015 from http://www.on.lung.ca/document.doc?id=1288