by Claudine Matthews

“Nutrition in Sickle Cell Disease (SCD); is there a role for Dietitians to step up and take responsibility using their expert knowledge of food and the science and art of nutrition and physiology to positively impact the health outcomes of this patient population?”

What an amazing opportunity dietitians have of improving the health and wellbeing, Quality of Life (QOL) and life expectancy of patients living with SCD, in the UK. National Dietitians Week, 8-12 June 2015, provides the perfect platform for Dietitians to step up to the mark and make a real difference to the nutritional health and outcomes of this patient population. This synergistic relationship has many benefits to both patients and dietitians alike and would increase the recognition of the role dietitians have to play in managing the nutritional health of the patients with SCD and would possibly increase the confidence patience have in ‘Trusting a Dietitian’, an outcome of  the National Dietitians Week campaign!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, by nurturing this synergistic relationship which considers under-nutrition as a critical feature for SCD, we achieved the positive outcomes predicted by American researchers Hyacinth et al (2013) who predicts improvements in QOL, future prospects and the nutritional outcomes with improvements in nutritional care for SCD patients. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if this would help to promote the ‘recognition’ of nutritional intervention as being a viable treatment option for all SCD patients?

The truth of the matter is, so much more work is needed to make a real difference to improving the nutritional needs of this patient population however we need to remain optimistic and recognize, ‘every little helps’. For this reason, I will remain relentless in my efforts to fight to see a change in the status quo of the dietetic landscape in improving dietetic input for the SCD patients in the UK. At present I am exploring the current landscape by conducting a national survey amongst the UK dietitians, to assess their levels of involvement, their knowledge and attitudes towards SCD. Disappointingly, the participation rate has been very poor but looking on the bright side, a number of very insightful themes have emerged to help shape the future of nutrition services for SCD in the UK.

We know however that Rome wasn’t built in a day and we must explore all avenues of support if we want to change practice, attitudes and policies on a national level. With perseverance and determination I will continue the fight drawing on the support of fellow professionals within and outside of the profession to drive forward the change desired, that is to improve Dietetic input, policies and resources for people living with SCD in the UK. To register your support, please follow me on Twitter @CMsickleNUTRI or @sickle cell society.

To echo the words of my previous article; SCD is a long term condition and deserves a fresh review among Dietitians. Dietitians are well placed, and have the expertise, to make a real difference to the nutritional health and wellbeing of the patient living with SCD in the UK. This makes the findings of the national survey all the more pertinent if we are to affect change in policy and practice. So let’s make National Dietitians Week and beyond count as we collaboratively work towards promoting the recognition of nutritional intervention as a viable treatment option for patients living with SCD in the UK.