Profile of a public health dietitian: Nicky McCarthy
As a dietitian working public health, Nicky uses her knowledge of nutrition to help prevent diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. She works closely with related organisations including the Heart Foundation, Cancer Society, public health nurses, health promoters, primary health rrganisations and community health workers.
Nicky’s interest in food and health helped her decide to become a dietitian. Her work includes providing up to date and accurate nutrition information to the community, by offering nutrition training for health professionals and community workers, and working with local media to reduce the amount of misinformation published about food and its effects. She enjoys promoting wellness and helping people to get the information they need to stay well and prevent disease.
Nicky has a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition, a Post Graduate Diploma in Dietetics and is studying towards a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Health. She says the most valuable part of having good qualifications is her ability to work at all levels of public health nutrition.
One of the projects Nicky has been involved with is an initiative to improve the health of the 8,000 employees at Canterbury District Health Board by replacing unhealthy foods from vending machines and cafeterias with healthier choices.
She is also involved with other health professionals in a project for overweight women who participate in a 6-week programme to help them make healthy lifestyle changes.
Nicky says people are initially resistant to change, but it is very rewarding to see
behaviour change at a population level and know that you are making a big difference.
“Sometimes in public health change is slow but when we make gains,
they are generally big ones and this is hugely rewarding."