The Army Dietitian's Role in Humanitarian Assistance

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      LEARNING OUTCOME: Describe the roles the Army dietitian can provide in support of military medical nation assistance programs.
      Regional crises and conflicts present the predominant threat to US national security for the future. Peacetime engagement, as a guiding foreign policy is a coordinated effort of political, economic, and military assistance promoting stability throughout the world. Nation assistance, conducted by the US, provides one conduit to foster stability, deter conflict and protect national interests. As other nations pursue their national objectives, the US can actively engage them by utilizing military assistance. Military medical efforts can be a cost effective strategy to achieve peacetime engagement through nation assistance. Army dietitian's have been involved in humanitarian aid and nation assistance activities since 1959 when a dietitian deployed to Peru to instruct and supervise the training of Peruvian food service personnel in a newly constructed hospital. More recent examples, include the assessment of nutritional operations in hospitals and coordination of food donations in Haiti, nutritional assessment and feeding of Chinese refugees in Kwajalein and disaster relief feeding in Saint Thomas after Hurricane Marilyn. A historical review examines the professional capabilities and unique contributions made by this allied health specialty. Trained in the areas of food service management and sanitation as well as clinical nutrition, the Army dietitian is a versatile resource in assessing the nutritional status of local populations, implementing food service relief efforts, and teaching proper food safety and sanitation to the local populace. The Army dietitian can positively influence the development of the host nation's medical infrastructure through nutritional support, general preventive medicine, and medical education and training. The most cost effective nation assistance activities in the future will require further refinement of operational concepts, innovative policies and proactive programs promoting an expanded role for Army dietitians.
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