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Nutrition services, prevention important in nutrition care for special health needs

The American Dietetic Association has published an updated position paper that addresses the nutrition aspects of health care for people with developmental disabilities and special health care needs.

It emphasizes prevention, coordination of care, the increasing role of technology and the importance of services provided by registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, registered.

ADA's position paper, published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, represents the Association's official stance on this health issue:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that nutrition services provided by registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, registered, are essential components of comprehensive care for all people with developmental disabilities and special health care needs.

ADA's position and accompanying paper were written by registered dietitians Cynthia L. Van Riper, clinical dietitian at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute for Genetics and Rehabilitation; and Lee Shelly Wallace, nutritionist at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center's Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities.

According to ADA's position paper: "People with developmental disabilities and special health care needs frequently have nutrition concerns, including growth alterations (failure to thrive, obesity or growth retardation), metabolic disorders, poor feeding skills, medication–nutrient interactions and sometimes partial or total dependence on enteral or parenteral nutrition," or tube feedings for people who cannot ingest food orally.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines developmental disabilities as "a diverse group of severe chronic conditions that are due to mental and/or physical impairments. People with developmental disabilities have problems with major life activities such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living. Developmental disabilities begin anytime during development up to 22 years of age and usually last throughout a person's lifetime."

ADA's position paper also notes that children and youth with special health care needs are "those who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional condition and who also require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally."

ADA's position contains a comprehensive view of nutrition services for all people with developmental disabilities and special health care needs throughout life. It incorporates the terminology of the nutrition care process in providing nutrition services; emphasizes the importance of coordination of care, medical home and transitional health services, as well as the role of wellness and disease prevention; discusses the increasing role of technology in providing information and for electronic health records; and reviews questions of health insurance and payment for services provided by RDs and DTRs. ADA's position paper also provides a list of current resources and references for RDs and DTRs seeking additional information.

The American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at

Jennifer Starkey | EurekAlert!
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