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ACSM, Partners Release White Paper Today Urging Training of Med Students, Physicians in Nutrition and Physical Activity

A new white paper was released today by ACSM, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The paper, titled Teaching Nutrition and Physical Activity in Medical School: Training Doctors for Prevention-Oriented Care shows that current training for medical professionals in nutrition and exercise is inadequate to cope with the nation’s obesity epidemic, and it offers recommendations on how to remedy that deficit.

The paper points to a skills and knowledge gap among medical professionals; more than 75 percent of physicians felt they had received inadequate training to counsel their patients on changing diet and increasing activity levels. It also highlights that fewer than 30 percent of medical schools meet the minimum number of hours of education in nutrition and exercise science recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

The white paper is the outcome of an October 2013 conference hosted by ACSM, BPC and the Alliance in Washington, DC. The conference was designed to gather input from medical school representatives, insurance providers, medical licensing and certification boards, and community-based organizations, as well as recent and current medical students and practitioners. The conference also included Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture; Donna Shalala, former secretary of health and human services; Senator Bill Frist; and leadership from the three sponsoring organizations, including ACSM CEO Jim Whitehead.

A summary of the white paper’s key findings and recommendations are as follows:
  1. Medical schools should develop and implement a standard nutrition and physical activity curriculum.
  2. Licensing and certification exams, as well as residency and continuing education programs should include more nutrition and physical activity content to reinforce its importance to treatment.
  3. Board-accredited advanced training programs should work to expand the cadre of experts in nutrition and physical activity who can teach health professionals.
  4. Federal and state governments should provide support for reforms in medical education and health care delivery that can help providers better meet patient needs with respect to nutrition, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors.
  5. Public and private insurance should provide reimbursement for health services that target lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise.
A press release announcing the white paper and its recommendations was also distributed today. more

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