Should Medical Students Learn More About Nutrition and Disease Prevention?

In the U.S., more people are being treated by diseases that can easily be prevented such as smoking, obesity, and heart failure, just to name a few. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that five diseases account for more than 65 percent of the deaths of American men. However, when people finally go see the doctor for their ailments, all the doctor can do is attempt to offer temporary treatments.

Over the years there has been a lack of education about nutrition and diet in medical schools, and unfortunately, that trend continues in many of today’s medical curriculum. In an article by David Freudberg, “Medical Students Discuss ‘Red Flags’ About the Future of Health Care”, he says that medical school has not trained doctors to help patients with lifestyle choices.

Ask doctors how to treat diabetes, and they can give you a number of answers, but ask them exactly what can be done to prevent this disease, they may draw a blank.

A medical student’s answer to this is that the course of study for medical school is already daunting and stressful without having to add more classes on diet and nutrition. I’m pretty sure there are classes that are not exactly a necessity. For premed courses, you could probably cut out a chemistry or physics class and replace it with a nutrition class. Classes that have a practical application in the real world of medicine should have precedence over a traditional curriculum.

If you’re a doctor, it’s important to remember that you are not just someone there to just prescribe a pill and send the patient on their merry way. You also have to consider yourself a consultant, and many of your patients will have questions about what they should or shouldn’t eat so that they can be healthier. And even if they don’t ask, I believe it’s your duty to share your knowledge on actions they can take to prevent diseases. Having a good rapport and communication with patients can help prevent medical malpractice.

I also believe that hospitals or any organization employing healthcare professionals should provide ongoing classes or workshops on the latest information about diets and nutrition. We have to remember that doctors have to be good role models and eat healthy too. How can patients look to doctors as authority figures and follow their advice if doctors don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle as well?

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