What if instead of getting antibiotics most every time you went to a doctor’s office, you were sent home with broccoli and a cookbook?
That might be a little exaggerated, but integrating nutrition into standard medical practice would go a long way to helping cure and prevent some health epidemics: so goes the stellar argument of a paper recently released by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) entitled Teaching Nutrition and Physical Activity in Medical School: Training Doctors for Prevention-Oriented Care.
A research effort based on opinions of stakeholders in most every sector of the healthcare industry presents some important and disappointing facts about modern medicine. In the BPC press release:
The paper points to a skills and knowledge gap among medical professionals; more than 75 percent of physicians felt they had received inadequate training to be able to counsel their patients on changing diet and increasing activity levels. It also highlights that fewer than 30 percent of medical schools meet the minimum number of hours of education in nutrition and exercise science recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.”
Though the paper filled with more disappointing news, like the fact that only 1 out of 8 physician visits includes any nutrition counseling, the BPC press release goes on to discuss the positive change that could result from this new information.
We agreed that obesity and related chronic diseases represent enormous challenges for our nation,” said Dan Glickman, former Secretary of Agriculture and Co-chair of BPC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative. “We concluded that an effective way to address those challenges was to encourage medical schools to help integrate nutrition and physical activity into mainstream medical training and practice.”
To that end, the paper offers five concrete recommendations to move forward. These are all efforts which, if brought to fruition, could take big strides in changing the health of our nation!
Medical schools should develop and implement a standard nutrition and physical activity curriculum.
Licensing and certification exams, as well as residency and continuing education programs, should include more nutrition and physical activity content to reinforce its importance to treatment.
Board-accredited advanced training programs should work to expand the cadre of experts in nutrition and physical activity who can teach health professionals.
Federal and state governments should provide support for reforms in medical education and health care delivery that can help providers better meet patient needs with respect to nutrition, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors.
Public and private insurance should provide reimbursement for health services that target lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise.