Dietitians assess specific nutritional requirements throughout the life span and translate this into advice and/or treatment. This will maintain, reduce risk to, or restore health, as well as alleviate discomfort in palliative care. Beyond healthcare, dietitians improve the nutritional environment for all through governments, industry, academia and research.
European dietitians use their competence across a wide range of situations and places within financial and regulatory frameworks. They can adapt their role depending on immediate need and are increasingly required to develop more specialist competences. Three main, sometimes overlapping, dietetic work fields exist in Europe: Clinical, Food Service, and Public Health/Community (see below). In addition, dietitians can work within other fields that require expertise in healthcare, food and/or nutrition e.g., academia/education, primary care, food industry, media, research, and sports.
- Clinical Dietitian: a dietitian who has responsibility for diagnosing and treating nutritional problems, using the Nutrition Care Process/Dietetic Process (NCP). Clinical dietitians can work in any health care setting, including primary health care, often in an interdisciplinary team.
- Food Service Dietitian: a dietitian who has responsibility within food service management for the provision of nutritionally adequate, safe, tasty, and sustainable quality food to individuals or groups. Food service dietitians can work in institutional, community and educational settings.
- Public Health or Community Dietitian: a dietitian directly involved in health promotion, prevention and policy formulation focusing on families, groups and populations; minimizing risk of nutritionally derived illness and health inequalities. Public health/community dietitians can work within government and non-government organizations; within the voluntary and independent sectors, as well as in community care.
Earlier within Europe EFAD has adopted, in principle, the International Congress of Dietetic Associations (ICDA) definition of the role of the dietitian.
The European Academic and Practitioner Standards for Dietetics (EDBS) adopted by EFAD in 2005 described the role of dietitians. The EDBS was updated in 2 phases and documents: Definition of dietitians in 2016 and the Academic Standards in 2018.