Expanding Nutrition's Role in Curricula and Healthcare (ENRICH) Act

The Physicians Committee
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Legislative Focus

Expanding Nutrition’s Role in Curricula and Healthcare (ENRICH) Act (H.R. 1411)

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Rep. Tim Ryan, Mark Hyman, M.D., Jim Hagberg, Ph.D., and Lisel Loy, J.D. ENRICH Briefing

If your doctor is like most in the United States, he or she likely received little nutrition training—a troubling fact considering the overwhelming evidence that dietary changes often surpass the most aggressive conventional treatments—even drugs and surgery—when it comes to preventing, treating, and reversing chronic disease.
 
In fact, seven out of 10 deaths in the United States are now caused by chronic diseases that can be prevented and treated through lifestyle improvements such as diet and exercise.
 
Fortunately, the Expanding Nutrition’s Role in Curricula and Healthcare (ENRICH) Act (H.R. 1411), a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, provides funding to support nutrition and physical activity education courses in U.S. medical schools.

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Colin Schwartz, M.P.P., Mark Hyman, M.D., Lisel Loy, J.D., and Jim Hagberg, Ph.D. ENRICH Briefing

Nine out of 10 physicians believe that nutrition counseling should be part of primary care visits, but less than 15 percent feel qualified to offer it. At the same time, more than half of graduating medical students rate their nutrition knowledge as “inadequate.”
 
That’s because three out of four medical schools fall short of federal recommendations for nutrition education. A 1985 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report recommended that all medical schools require at least 25 contact hours of nutrition education. In 2004, only 38 percent of medical schools met these minimum standards. By 2010, that number had shrunk to 27 percent. The same can be said for physical activity education—although the majority of medical school deans regard  exercise prescriptions as important, only 13 percent of medical schools offer a core course or required curriculum on physical activity.

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Colin Schwartz, M.P.P., Mark Hyman, M.D., and Dr. Hagberg#ENRICHYourHealth

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine shows patients who receive an extra 5.5 minutes in primary care visits to talk about nutrition lose 5 pounds, lower saturated fat intake, and improve LDL cholesterol levels. For exercise, in one study, physical activity among patients increased after receiving physician advice. 
 
In recognizing the importance of lifestyle factors such as nutrition and physical activity, Healthy People 2020—the federal government’s framework for a healthier nation—includes goals to increase the proportion of physician office visits that include counseling or education related to nutrition and physical activity. 
 
The ENRICH Act establishes a $15 million grant program—all money from existing funds—to help medical schools incorporate nutrition and physical activity education into their curricula to meet expert recommendations. This will allow recipient medical schools to offer new courses, integrate nutrition and physical activity information into existing courses for all specialties, provide continuing medical education and workshops, offer electives, and include this information in residency rotations.

Improving nutrition education for medical professionals has been a central part of the Physicians Committee’s mission since its inception in 1985. A strong momentum to address this problem is building in Congress, and we need your help to ensure that doctors have the most up-to-date nutrition and physical activity education training they need.