Advocacy & Dietetic Practice - be silent no more.
What is advocacy, and what does it have to do with being a Dietitian?
Advocacy is taking action which aims to change attitudes, practices and policies, amongst others. We can do this in our role as Dietitians in a number of ways:
- Awareness raising eg. social media
- Activities and events eg. ED Awareness Week
- Working in groups eg. ASDAH, HAES Australia
- Media messaging
On a more local level, advocating for our individuals clients might include:
- Speaking with other health professionals and colleagues
- Writing letter to doctors and other providers
In the words of Dr Michelle May, other providers are not necessarily HAES-rejecting, they are HAES-uninformed.
Why is this important?
- Everyone, in every body deserves optimal health care free of bias and stigma.
- Because people ARE treated differently in our health system depending on their level of privilege and power (or lack thereof) and this is unethical.
- Because as health providers, our voice does matter, and can make a difference.
Additionally, our clients benefit on different levels when we advocate for them, which is not the same as "speaking for them." It's important that we aim to support our clients to develop skills in speaking for themselves whilst at the same time recognising that our health system has deeply ingrained power structures which may render even the most confident human being powerless. When we advocate, our clients hear and see "I believe in you, you matter, you are important..." which has a profound effect. We must not underestimate the power of us sending the message of "I've got your back."
Advocacy takes some practice, because we too are part of these healthcare power structures - many of us will have experienced where Dietitians sit on the ladder right? We may indeed have some "research" at hand that we can send (and yes, health professionals do enjoy this) but I really believe that we don't need to be absolutely, 100% sure of things before taking action. Each person is a unique individual, not an "n" in a study. More importantly than being sure is that we don't stay silent when we see injustice of any description.
We, and our clients, deserve better.