The Physician’s Role in Nutrition-Related Disorders: From Bystander to Leader
“It is time for doctors and hospitals to make the transition from being bystanders in food-related illnesses to becoming role models and leaders in the fight for health,” says Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., in the latest issue of the American Medical Association’s Virtual Mentor.
Dr. Barnard says, “Doctors not only need to encourage patients to make major lifestyle changes, they have an obligation to do so, and must include in their consideration those family members who may not be in the examination room but who are put at risk by bad food habits.”
In the article, he says that some useful lessons come from the war on tobacco and recommends doctors:
- Turn waiting time into learning time. Patients pacing around examination rooms scour the fine print on the certificates and diplomas and flip through old magazines while waiting for their doctor to arrive. Clinicians can turn that time to advantage with nutrition-oriented posters and booklets. More than one smoker was motivated to quit by a booklet in a medical office, and the same may be true of people who need a dietary improvement.
- Talk with patients about the power of foods, and be ready with a dietetic referral.
- Invite patients to an after-hours nutrition class held in your waiting room. Patients with diabetes, weight issues, or other diet-related problems can be efficiently taught in groups by a qualified dietitian.
- Make our hospitals exemplary. Just as hospitals made the conscious decision to go smoke-free, healthfulness should be the rule for foods served to patients and visitors, food vendors renting space on hospital grounds, and wellness programs offered to employees.
To read the entire article, visit the Virtual Mentor website.