Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining good health and helping to prevent chronic disease. And yet when people visit the doctor, they’re unlikely to receive this kind of counseling as part of their medical care.
Nutrition: Challenges in Addressing Nutrition in Clinical Settings
Why isn’t nutrition more frequently addressed in clinical settings? Perhaps it is because physicians come out of medical school and residency with limited training in this area. And so, they lack confidence in their ability to provide counseling to their patients. Furthermore, patient interactions are often brief and focused on acute conditions rather than lifestyle changes. Moreover, doctors are facing time pressures and food counseling doesn’t fit into the schedule.
Nutrition: Practical Advice And Call To Action
Physicians counseling patients on dietary behavior change, should focus on small steps. For example, give patients a dietary screening questionnaire before their visit. Also, have patients self-report their dietary habits and suggest small changes. For example, an exchange could go like this: “I see that you’re having 3 glasses of sugary soda every day. That is linked to increased diabetes risk.” “Go ahead and swap one of those sodas for water or a zero calorie drink.”
One step at a time with good follow up should lead the patient to adopt a positive lifestyle change.
A great source for physicians and skilled nurses is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which offers evidence-based nutrition recommendations for Americans ages 2 and older.
The suggestions mentioned above are a first important step in emphasizing the importance of proper nutrition to maintain good health.
Reimbursement is also key. Consistent coverage for nutrition counseling and clear policies in insurance plans will encourage doctors and patients to make nutrition counseling a priority.