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  1. News Release

  2. Nov 13, 2019

Poll: Most Doctors Want To Discuss Nutrition With Patients but Feel Unprepared

Legislation in D.C. and New York Would Require Continuing Education on Nutrition

WASHINGTON—Seventy-three percent of physicians feel that patient visits should include nutrition guidance, but only 15 percent feel “totally prepared” to offer it, according to a new poll commissioned by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members.

The poll, conducted by SIS International Research, asked 40 Washington, D.C., area physicians questions about their nutrition education and preparedness to offer patients nutrition counseling. The poll also found that:

  • 78 percent would be more likely to discuss nutrition with their patients and/or refer them to a registered dietitian if they had more training on nutrition basics.
  • 63 percent do not include nutrition courses in their continuing medical education.
  • 83 percent believe physicians should try to include nutrition courses in their continuing medical education.
  • 65 percent think doctors should be required to have some of their continuing medical education hours be related to nutrition.

“It is only right that doctors understand the causes of their patients’ illnesses and have the knowledge to help them get well,” said Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, at a recent hearing on a bill that would require continuing education on nutrition for physicians practicing in Washington, D.C.

The Continuing Nutrition Education Amendment Act of 2019, which was introduced in the D.C. Council by Councilmember Mary Cheh, would “provide information and skills to enable health professionals to incorporate nutrition counseling into clinical practice, which may include: general nutrition throughout the lifecycle; nutrition assessment; the role of nutrition in disease prevention, management, and treatment; nutrition topics related to medical specialties such as obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, and oncology; food insecurity and its impact on health; and obesity treatment and prevention.” New York introduced similar legislation earlier this year: A7695/S5887.

D.C. is projected to have 131,194 cases of heart disease in 2030, nearly four times the number in 2010. Recent statistics show that type 2 diabetes takes an extraordinarily high toll in Wards 7 and 8. Statistics also show disproportionate colorectal cancer incidence in these same wards. Good nutrition can play a role in improving these conditions.

“Nutrition CME is a win-win for doctors and dietitians,” says Susan Levin, MS, RD, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee and a dietitian with the Barnard Medical Center. “A nutrition prescription from a doctor means a referral to dietitian who gets the opportunity to transform a patient’s serious illness to a success story.”

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Michael Keevican


Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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