In 1992, the undergraduate Dietetics training and postgraduate diploma training at the University was investigated in depth owing to certain problems around the training, particularly that of the postgraduate diploma. In 1994 the proposal was implemented that the training for undergraduate dietetics and the postgraduate diploma should be contained in one qualification (called the B Dietetics integrated training) and be presented in the (then) Faculty of Medicine. This entailed establishing a Division of Dietetics in the Faculty in 1994.

The decisive factors in this decision were firstly the recommendation of the AUT (Advisory Committee: Universities and Technicons) in 1992/93 that an integrated tuition approach would be the appropriate approach to dietetics training; and secondly that in an environment focusing on health care, a Division of Dietetics could more readily achieve its goals of training, research, care of patients and community service/primary health care.

The first students in this programme graduated in 1996, coinciding with the last time when the Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics was presented. In 1998 the Professional Board for Dietetics assessed the undergraduate programme and gave a very positive evaluation report, appreciating the quality of the training. A tutor programme reinforcing undergraduate tuition in Dietetics and associated subjects was introduced in 1997 and has since been especially positively received by the students.

The possibilities for postgraduate training in Dietetics (M Dietetics ) consist of a choice of a coursework programme and also a choice where the research project (execution and presentation) is the essence of the training. In 1997 a coursework degree programme, MSc (Applied Human Nutrition), was approved as a qualification. Currently there are on average 18-20 graduates a year in the undergraduate programme.

The term “human nutrition” shows directly and unambiguously that the science of nutrition applies to human beings in the interest of their health. This highlights the role of nutrition in a health-promoting, preventive, therapeutic, rehabilitative and/or palliative context. The new name was also deemed better for promoting interdisciplinary co-operation in the field of training, research and community development, because “human nutrition” suggests a wider field of application than Dietetics.

To keep pace with change and the demands of the time (including the implications of the South African Qualification Authority), and also to train dietitians who would not only be excellently and internationally competitively trained, but would also have locally relevant skills, the B Dietetics curriculum was profoundly revised over a two-year period (1998-2000) and the revisions were tested continuously against relevant stakeholders, taking into account the requirements of the Professional Board for Dietetics for the training of dietitians. The current curriculum is characterised by a problem-based approach to learning, lateral and vertical integration, as well as early and continuous practical exposure and training in practice (at primary, secondary and tertiary health care levels; private and/or government institutions) and was introduced in 2001.

Where the Department of Human Nutrition is a co-partner in the Faculty, the Department has committed itself to the implementation of decisions on transformation and the expansion of the Faculty. In the current era which does not exclude change, renewal and challenges, the Department is still committed to the pursuit of excellence.

Published by Leonore Jordaan

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