Why do we need to train medics in nutrition? After all, we have Nutritional Therapists, Nutritional Therapists and Dieticians to advise on nutrition and healthy eating. So why bother training our medics? They are already overworked. We are facing a health crisis with nearly 9 out of 10 adults in the UK being overweight or obese. 1 in 3 children leaves primary school overweight or obese. Cardiovascular disease is the biggest cause of death globally. Our medics have plenty to think about!
According to The Global Lancet poor diet causes more disease than smoking, alcohol and physical inactivity combined. It seems then that we really should pay attention to what we eat. Should we train medics in nutrition then? The NHS is underresourced and underfunded so perhaps we should just leave the healthy eating and nutrition advice to the experts. This is in our view would be a very short-sighted and those professionals that think in this way are not promoting a healthcare system for the 21st Century, an integrative healthcare system.
Front line medics (particularly GP’s) are exposed to patients on a regular basis. GP’s are the first port of call when a patient has a health concern. It is these front line medics that are therefore perfectly placed to offer healthy eating guidance, particularly for those suffering from chronic lifestyle diseases. These patients are seen by GP’s regularly and there is an ongoing patient, GP relationship. Often the GP has a relationship with the whole family and has an excellent knowledge of their case and family history.
The purpose of training medics in nutrition is to take advantage of this relationship and be able to drip-feed nutrition and healthy eating guidance at a very basic level when they visit the practice. By training medics in nutrition (at a relatively detailed level but not at the detail of a Nutritional Therapist, Nutritionist or Dietician) it allows them to understand the impact of nutrition on health and disease, be able to drip-feed information to patients and also refer them to other sources when appropriate, whether that be Nutritional Therapists, Nutritionists, Dieticians, Health Coaches, Nutrition Coaches, Community Programmes, Cooking Classes etc.
At present medics, on the whole, do not understand nutrition and therefore are not placed to even guide their patients in the basics yet alone refer them to other sources. During some 7 years of medical school, they only have a few hours of nutrition education. Once trained in nutrition the information that medics will be able to provide can be given within a few minutes of consultations and can be invaluable to the patient. It can help patients understand some basics of healthy eating, get them on the right path and start them taking control of their own health. If they need further detailed support then the GP’s are in a perfect position to refer to nutrition specialists or community programmes through social prescribing.
Therefore as you can see this is a totally integrated approach and without the training of medics the cross-referral to nutrition specialists and other resources will not happen except in rare circumstances. We have had Nutritional Therapists, Nutritionists and Dietitians for many years but referrals do not happen frequently because of the lack of knowledge and training of GP’s in nutrition. The quickest way to change the status quo is to give the GP’s nutrition knowledge. Where GP practices are working in this way it is a great success.
This is why here at Sano we are so passionate about both training medics in nutrition to achieve this goal and also working with GP practices to implement an integrated approach. The approach not only requires training in nutrition but also a practice structure to allow funding to refer to other resources.
If you are a medic interested in learning nutrition then we offer several courses. Our course which teaches you the building blocks of healthy eating ‘Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome’ and is relevant to all patients whatever their health concerns is accredited by The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). For those who want to take their nutrition training further, we offer a more comprehensive course, the Sano Diploma in Applied Nutrition for Medics that teaches in-depth evidence-based nutrition where food can support both health and disease states.