BACKGROUND: South African dietitians are confronted with the challenge of effectively marketing themselves as a sound source of information on nutrition to both the public and other health professionals. The marketing initiative should focus on the promotion of both the profession itself and individual practices. The aim was to assess the perception of South African private practising clinical dietitians of the relevance of service-specific healthcare marketing principles and communication elements (within the ambit of Act 53 of 1974). The design was a descriptive cross-sectional survey in the quantitative domain. Convenience sampling was used (n = 79).
METHOD: Data were collected by means of an electronic questionnaire. The response rate was low (16.8%), and the results could not be generalised.
RESULTS: The dietitians seemed more focused on the science of nutrition, than on marketing their profession and individual practices. There was an overall awareness of the need for marketing in the dietetic private sector, but the importance and implementation thereof did not receive the amount of attention that it justifies. A number of service-specific healthcare marketing principles received “slightly relevant” or “not relevant” ratings.
CONCLUSION: For the dietetic profession to reach its full potential in South Africa, and for dietetic private practices to be successful on all levels, dietitians need to focus more of their time and energy on business-related aspects such as marketing. By integrating the theory from the literature with the findings from the study, a profession-specific marketing flow diagram and recommendations could be proposed.