Diet in the management of non-dialysis dependent chronic kidney disease: perceptions and practices of health professionals
BACKGROUND: Therapeutic strategies, including dietary intervention, to target non-dialysis dependent Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) progression have been at the forefront of recent renal research. Nephrologists and other renal health professionals are key stakeholders in the dietary management of patients with non-dialysis dependent CKD and referrals to dietetic services. The aims of this study were to explore (i) health professional perceptions regarding the role of diet in managing non-dialysis dependent CKD, and (ii) health professional practices regarding the provision of dietary advice and referrals to dietetic services. METHODS: A 31-item online survey was emailed to members of professional renal networks and associations in Australia and New Zealand. Data was analysed descriptively. Categorical variables were assessed to determine associations between referral frequency, demographic variables, health professional role (non-dietetic versus dietetic) and perceptions of the role of diet. RESULTS: Overall, 189 health professionals completed the survey. Nephrologists (42%), renal nurses (29%) and renal dietitians (24%) were the most common respondents. Non-dietetic health professionals rated the importance of diet in the management of non-dialysis dependent CKD significantly lower than renal dietitians (73% versus 98% ranked as very-extremely important, p = 0.002). Fifty percent of non-dietetic health professionals referred patients to renal dietetic services never or 0-25% of the time. Reasons for not referring included perceptions there is a lack of evidence that diet reduces CKD progression, perceptions that patients will not adhere to dietary recommendations, and a desire to reduce visit burden for patients. Barriers to accessing dietetic services were perceived to be significant and include lengthy wait times and inadequate dietetic staffing. CONCLUSION: Inconsistencies exist between non-dietetic health professionals and dietitians regarding the importance of diet in non-dialysis dependent CKD. Referral practices appear to be influenced by beliefs about the evidence base and perceptions regarding the ability of dietitians to meet referral demand. Raising awareness for non-dietetic health professionals working in nephrology regarding the evidence on diet and CKD progression is needed. An improved understanding of this evidence base may improve knowledge and referral patterns. Further, an increase in renal dietetic staffing is recommended to enhance patient access to services.
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