Dial-a-dieticians expand access to healthy eating advice

  • Jun. 10, 2011 6:00 a.m.

More dietitians and expanded hours are ready to serve families better.

Families in B.C. will have better access to a bigger team of provincial dietitians when they have questions about healthy eating and planning their meals.

British Columbians will now be able to call HealthLink B.C.’s Dietitian Services at 8-1-1 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday to Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. This is an increase of four hours per day for the first four days of the week, making the service more accommodating to working families. Hours of operation for HealthLink B.C. Dietitian Services have been 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

“Whether it’s a question about eating healthy with diabetes or what to feed your baby, or a concern about trans fat, we’re available at 8-1-1 to help,” said Barb Leslie, director of dietitian services, HealthLink B.C.

Ten new registered dietitians are also being hired for the expanded hours and new dietitian services, bringing the staff total to 30 when recruitment is complete.

“Most British Columbians work standard business hours during the week and may not have the time from 9-to-5 to call for information if they have questions about what they’re eating or planning for their families,” said Health Minister Michael de Jong.

“With these extended business hours and 10 new staff, dietitians will now be more available to answer inquiries about everything from nutrition to food allergies.”

Dietitian Services at HealthLink B.C. provide information about nutrition for all ages, as well as nutrition advice to help prevent or manage chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. All 8-1-1 calls are answered by specially-trained health service representatives who can help the caller find local health services and resources, or transfer the call directly to a registered dietitian or other appropriate health professional.

The expansion of dietitian hours via 8-1-1 will assist families across B.C., both urban and rural, and supports the B.C. government’s commitment to looking at services through a rural lens, making sure products are accessible to all British Columbians, regardless of where they live.

This announcement is a part of the Healthy Families B.C. initiative, which will support British Columbians in managing their own health, reducing chronic disease and ensuring that pregnancy and support programs target the province’s most vulnerable families. The second part of the strategy will focus on healthy eating measures including a greater awareness campaign around sodium and sugary drinks, as well as a provincial restaurant nutrition information program to help make the healthier choice the easier choice.

A strengthened provincial strategy and ongoing investment in prevention can improve the health of British Columbians and potentially avoid up to $2 billion in yearly health-care costs, according to a report released in September 2010 by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall. Obesity alone costs up to $830 million a year to the economy.