Congress Introduces Bill Requiring Nutrition Education for Health Care Professionals

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE July 16, 2015
Congress Introduces Bill Requiring Nutrition Education for Health Care Professionals
EAT for Health Act of 2015 (H.R. 3057) Would Combat Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease

WASHINGTON—The Education and Training (EAT) for Health Act of 2015 (H.R. 3057), introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today, aims to ensure that federally employed physicians and nurse practitioners receive continuing nutrition education. The bill, supported by the Physicians Committee—a nonprofit of 12,000 physicians—would give health care professionals the knowledge to help patients use good nutrition to fight obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic disease.

“Without nutrition education, health care professionals are unable to give their patients the most powerful prescription against chronic disease—a healthful diet,” says Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D. “Passage of the EAT for Health Act of 2015 is an important first step that I hope will one day lead to required nutrition education for all medical professionals.”

The EAT for Health Act of 2015 requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue guidelines requiring federal agencies to ensure that each year their physicians and nurse practitioners receive nutrition-focused continuing medical education (CME) or continuing education (CE), respectively. At the end of each year, the agencies must formally attest to Congress that they have achieved this modest but significant goal.

“Equally important to having the most effective medicines and advanced medical facilities in the world is having access to the best medical advice available when consulting a practitioner,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Good life choices can prevent diseases and injuries, ensure lower overall medical costs, and lead to longer, healthier lives. It all starts by making sure the right conversations take place in doctors’ offices, and I’m proud to say that this bill will help make that a reality.”

More than 75 percent of national health expenditures are spent on treatment for chronic diseases, according to the Institute of Medicine. A report from the World Health Organization concluded diet was a major cause of chronic diseases. Seven out of 10 deaths among people in the United States each year are from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

According to Healthy People 2020—the federal government’s framework for a healthier nation—only 13.8 percent of physician office visits included counseling about nutrition or diet. A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 94 percent of physicians feel nutrition counseling should be included during primary care visits, but only 14 percent felt adequately trained to provide such counseling. In 2010, only 25 percent of U.S. medical schools required a dedicated nutrition course.

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.