A specialist dietitian has joined GP practices in Cowes, Newport and Freshwater to add nutrition to the growing menu of services provided for over 52,000 patients.
The appointment of dietitian Jenn Van Zant is the first of its kind on the Island but reflects a national move to increase the areas of speciality available to support doctors at local GP surgeries. It also reflects the acceptance that diet has a crucial role to play both in preventing illness and in managing some conditions.
After 3-and-a-half years working at St Mary’s Hospital as a dietitian she successfully applied for the new post created by the Island’s Central and West Wight Health Alliance; 1 of 3 Primary Care Networks on the Island that groups together practices to work together to offer more personalised, coordinated health and social care to their patients.
Jenn will be working out of Cowes Medical Centre, Brookside Health Centre in Freshwater and Newport Health Centre (Dower House and Carisbrooke) which collectively serve more than 52,000 patients.
But future patients need not worry about the advice in store if they are referred to Jenn Van Zant, a self-confessed lover of chocolate and ice cream:
“Of course, certain conditions require therapeutic diets but I am not here to judge anyone on what they eat or what they look like. I love ice cream and chocolate and sometimes I find I have to counsel myself. But dietitians are not – or should not be – the food police.
“It is all about finding the sensible diets that suits you and whatever condition you may have.
“If I were to give three golden bits of dietary advice it would be these: Firstly, eat healthy and well, including your five-a-day, and don’t skip meals. Secondly find an activity you enjoy doing and keep moving and be as active as you can and thirdly – don’t forget to enjoy your food…even if it is chocolate.”
That is not at all to say that Jenn, who was born in Texas and moved to the Island with her Island-born husband Paul Dyer in 2018, is not passionate about the science of nutrition and the importance of a healthy diet. She has gone through extensive professional training and is a qualified dietitian on both sides of the Atlantic. As a celiac she knows first hand the link between diet and the effect it has on our bodies.
Jenn is now looking forward to putting her experience into practice working closely with GPs and other healthcare professionals from across other disciplines who now make up the teams at GP surgeries. Initially, she will consult with people referred to her by GPs, but wants also to accept self-referrals if they are ready – or near to being ready – to accept change.
Outside of work, Jenn enjoys the outdoor life including walking her 2 Spanish rescue dogs Benji and Charlie – and, of course, cooking at home with Paul, especially if the food is locally produced.
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