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Teaching Nutrition and Physical Activity in Medical School: Training Doctors for Prevention-Oriented Care

Obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, constitute some of the most challenging and costly public health threats facing America today. To combat these threats, health care providers must be better equipped to address issues of diet and physical activity with their patients. Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals are uniquely positioned to deliver effective messages and counseling about the importance of these lifestyle factors in achieving and maintaining good health. Today’s health care system, however, often fails to provide practitioners with adequate training and incentives to counsel patients about nutrition and physical activity.

This white paper focuses on options for improving medical education and training in topics such as nutrition and physical activity that have an important role to play in the prevention and treatment of obesity and chronic diseases. These topics have traditionally received little attention in formal medical school curricula and training programs, but they are increasingly essential as part of a comprehensive, patient-focused approach to treating some of the most common and consequential health problems affecting the American population today. Later sections of this white paper describe recent efforts to address the current knowledge and skills gap, and offer recommendations for further progress.

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