EAT for Health Act

The Physicians Committee

Legislative Focus

Education and Training (EAT) for Health Act (H.R. 4378)

Seven out of 10 deaths in the United States are caused by chronic diseases that can be prevented through proper nutrition and other lifestyle changes—diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and hypertension.

The connection between chronic disease and diet is increasingly well understood, yet physicians and other medical professionals receive so little education in nutrition that they are unable to prevent, treat, and reverse these conditions by counseling their patients on dietary changes.

  • A recent survey found that only 27 percent of U.S. medical schools provide the minimum 25 hours of nutrition education recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. Twenty-nine percent of schools reported a requirement of less than 12 hours of nutrition education.
  • More than three-quarters of medical school instructors indicated that their students need more nutrition education.
  • Ninety-four percent of physicians feel that nutrition counseling should be part of primary care visits, but only 14 percent feel qualified to offer it.
  • Consumer surveys show that physicians are considered credible sources of nutrition information. However, more than half of graduating medical students still rate their nutrition knowledge as “inadequate.”
  • By current count, 15 states mandate continuing medical education (CME) in specific topics—but none of them require nutrition training. In other words, once medical students become physicians, they are not required to complete any further nutrition education. The lone exception is the state of California, which in 2011 created a law requiring physicians who treat chronic diseases to receive nutrition information from the Department of Health.

The EAT for Health Act will ensure that physicians be kept up-to-date on the latest nutritional science by requiring annual credits in nutrition CME. It requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue guidelines requiring federal agencies to ensure that their physicians receive at least six hours of CME in nutrition each year. At the end of each year, each agency must formally attest to Congress that they have achieved this modest but significant goal.

This commonsense legislation will help to raise awareness about the lack of nutrition education that most health care professionals receive. We hope that it will also kickstart a paradigm shift that leads to federal health policies placing a stronger emphasis on the connection between diet and disease. Supporters of this legislation include organizations such as the American Nurses Association, the Returning Veterans Project, and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

Please let our legislators know that nutrition education is an important part of the solution to our growing health crisis. Click here to ask your members of Congress to support the EAT for Health Act.