71 Percent Of Medical Schools Are Not Teaching Nutritional Education To Students

Nutrition Education In Medical School

High rates of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes across the country have led many to request a call-to-action from our nation’s medical educators.

According to StateofObesity.org, almost 38% of adults are obese and the CDC predicts that one-in-three adults will develop diabetes by 2050. Not only are these health outcomes dangerous, but they are also costly attributing up to $322 billion dollars in overall healthcare spending. These statistics have put a magnifying glass on the quality of nutritional information provided to patients by their providers, and studies have found that a lack of nutritional education during medical school may be the deeper root of the issue.

These statistics have put a magnifying glass on the quality of nutritional information provided to patients by their providers.

Nutrition is really a core component of modern medical practice. There may be some pathologists or other kinds of doctors who don’t encounter these issues later, but many will, and they aren’t getting enough instruction while in medical school.Kelly M. Adams, Registered Dietitian, UNC Chapel Hill

The question of whether or not US medical schools provide adequate nutritional education to students is not new. The National Research Council has mandated that 25-30 hours of nutrition education be included in training, yet a recent study found that 71% of schools failed to provide the minimum amount of hours.

Furthermore, the hours that did make it into the four-year curriculum focused more on biochemistry than actual practical eating habits and dietary concerns. This lack of clinical background is believed to be the main reason why more physicians do not incorporate any type of dietetic counseling or assessment when treating patients.  

A white paper released by the Bipartisan Policy Center stated that less than ¼ of physicians felt they received adequate training in counseling patients on diet, which makes it no surprise that less than 1/8th of medical visits included nutritional counseling.

Though major curriculum changes would take years to implement, there are efforts being taken by both educators and healthcare organizations.

The AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education is an initiative that works to improve healthcare outcomes by fostering innovation in medical education, and has funded projects that directly relate to nutrition education.

Tulane University School of Medicine has a teaching kitchen where medical students get hands-on experience developing cooking techniques that will become valuable information to share with future patients. Students can also opt for a “clinical rotation” at a local culinary school in addition to the core program. Read more about Tulane’s Culinary Medicine Program.

Partnerships between medical schools, culinary schools, and schools of public health have been more of a continuing education effort to help physicians improve their patient counseling strategies. Nutrition experts are hoping that in the coming years more strict curriculum requirements will be implemented, along with increased dietetic focus on medical school examinations.

Sierra Kennedy
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