Exploring the eating disorder curricula of accredited university dietetic programs in Australia and New Zealand

Publication Name

Journal of Eating Disorders


Background: Dietitians are viewed as integral members of the multidisciplinary treatment team for people with eating disorders (EDs). However, low levels of perceived confidence, competence, and willingness to practice in this clinical area, have been reported by dietitians and student dietitians. As the extent of ED-specific knowledge and skills-based training within tertiary accredited dietetic programs is currently unknown, this research aimed to: (1) obtain insights into the current ED-specific knowledge base and training content of dietetic curricula in both Australian and New Zealand universities; (2) understand the perspectives of course convenors regarding the role of dietitians in ED treatment and their employment opportunities; and (3) identify gaps and opportunities for improving university programs and the dietetic workforce. Methods: Course convenors (or their nominated representative) of Australian and New Zealand accredited dietetic programs were invited to participate in a semi-structured virtual interview. A purpose-built question guide was developed to explore the inclusion and/or integration of ED-specific content into the curricula, and the perspectives of course convenors toward the role of dietitians in the treatment of EDs, and their employment opportunities. The interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed qualitatively using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Thirteen participants who represented 14 universities and 19 individual accredited dietetic programs, were interviewed, with some participants representing more than one university. Three dominant themes emerged: (1) varying ED-specific content and training in dietetic programs; (2) unclear dietitian's role in the treatment of EDs, and (3) contrasting views regarding ED clinical practice and employment. Conclusions: ED-specific content was embedded within all the dietetic programs investigated in this study. However, this content was generally limited to an introductory level, with notable variations found between the depth of content and the type of training provided. Risk-mitigation skill development, such as screening for EDs, and early identification of symptoms, also varied between programs. Therefore, it is recommended that ED-specific skill development and knowledge is enhanced within Australian and New Zealand university programs, to support effective, safe, and timely care for people with EDs. This research has implications for current and future university dietetic program development and the broader dietetic workforce.

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