WASHINGTON—Today, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, introduced the Expanding Nutrition’s Role in Curricula and Healthcare (ENRICH) Act (H.R. 1411). The bill proposes a $15 million competitive grant to expand nutrition and physical activity education programs to at least 30 U.S. medical schools. The bill comes at a time when medical schools are decreasing the number of hours in nutrition education despite falling short of federal recommendations.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends all medical schools require 25 hours of nutrition education or less than 1 percent of total training hours—the minimum that experts agree provides basic training for nutrition competency. Only 27 percent of U.S. medical schools today meet these requirements. Only 13 percent integrate physical activity into the core curricula.
“The ENRICH Act puts nutrition where it urgently needs to be,” says Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee. “Nutrition needs to be incorporated into medical schools, present in every patient waiting room, and in the minds of every health care provider. In the field of preventive medicine, our entire population is nutritionally underserved.”
Chronic diseases—heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer—are the primary causes of death among Americans. While most doctors recognize the growing need to address lifestyle-related disease, less than 25 percent of doctor office visits include counseling on nutrition, physical activity, or referrals to a specialist.
More than two dozen health and medical organizations support the ENRICH Act, including the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Heart Association, the American College of Preventive Medicine, and the American College of Sports Medicine.
“The ENRICH Act is a critical first step toward enhancing medical school curricula so that it provides the training physicians need to counsel their patients about the importance of lifestyle decisions related to physical activity and nutrition,” says Jim Hagberg, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland and a fellow at the American College of Sports Medicine.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.