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Could Food Be Harming Your Clients? How Social Workers Can Use Diet as a Tool

Social Workers
Social Workers

Social workers have a variety of tools at their disposal; many more than the general public is aware of. One of those tools is diet and nutrition. For many clients, diet plays an important role in physical and mental health. A social worker understands this and knows how to use nutrition as part of an overall program of care. Here are various situations in which social workers utilize nutrition education as part of assistance:

1.Childhood

Social workers understand that children are led by example and that nutrition plays a key role in child development. People in the profession, particularly those who have an interest and training in nutrition, are helping parents understand how proper food choices can help their child stay happy and healthy. When parents understand how to feed their families in the best way, they often report that children’s moods, health and behaviors improve. Social workers can help parents see that by shifting their own lifestyle choices, their children can benefit.

2.Geriatric Care

According to Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH and Associate Professor, homebound seniors experience more diet-related problems than their active peers. Social workers providing geriatric care can teach elderly adults how to change their diets and nutritional habits to their benefit. Case workers can also educate families and caregivers in regards to the best diets for their elderly charges. Social workers are skilled in teaching seniors and their families how to construct diets that are specific to medical conditions that typically affect people as they age.

3.Eating Disorders

The American Dietic Association reports that more than five million Americans experience eating disorders. Among these disorders are binge-eating disorders, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. A clinical social worker can provide psychotherapy and assist those experiencing eating disorders locate resources for medical evaluation. Social workers can also assist in education with regards to diet choices and body image perception.

4.Pre- and Perinatal Care

Not all pregnant women have support from family and friends. Likewise, not all pregnant women have the resources available for proper medical care and advice. Licensed social workers can provide assistance to these women, advising them on the proper nutritional choices during and after pregnancy. Poor choices can not only harm the fetus, but poor dietary choices can prove harmful to the mother. Social workers can educate mothers with regards to supplementation and dietary choices, as well as provide contacts to medical professionals and nutrition experts.

5.End of Life Care

For many families, social workers play a large part in end-of-life care. It can be a distressing time for families and social workers can lend a supportive ear, be a fantastic source of resources and help with after-death arrangements. Social workers can provide nutritional advice at the end of a family member’s life, and can help the family decide when the withdrawal of fluids and nutrition is an option.

Diet plays a part in the physical and mental health of every person. Social workers understand this and incorporate nutrition in their treatments and therapies. No matter what type of situation or life event you find yourself a part of, a social worker can provide the assistance that you need.

Robert Neff is an avid professional writer. If you want to help those around you, consider a degree in social work such as those offered at Case Western.