Profile and performance of nutritionists in Primary Health Care

ABSTRACT Objective To describe the profile and performance of nutritionists in Primary Health Care. Methods A cross-sectional study was carried out, and all nutritionists in two municipalities of Paraíba, Brazil, were interviewed. Information was collected through structured interviews on demographic characteristics, professional qualification, development of food and nutrition activities, knowledge and use of essential bibliography for the work in Primary Care. Results In one municipality there were 28 teams of the Family Health Strategy and in the other, nineteen teams. In all, nineteen nutritionists were interviewed, fourteen of whom were working in the health teams and five were working exclusively in the Family Health Support Centers. All but one were women and the majority were between 20 and 39 years; the majority (n=10) had no graduate training. Nutritionists from the basic health teams developed more public health nutrition actions, such as defining nutritional care protocols and vitamin A and iron supplementation than those from the Family Health Support Centers (11 versus 1; and 13 versus 1, respectively). About half were satisfied with work in general, and dissatisfaction was related to deficiencies in the availability and quality of anthropometric equipment, physical structure and material. Conclusion Nutritionists work in food and nutrition actions in collective health, emphasizing the importance of qualification and practices that better combine the programmatic agenda of this area with Primary Care.