Topics » Social Issues » Doctors for Nutrition (DFN) Launches Online Plant-Based Nutrition Course for Healthcare Professionals
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

Doctors For Nutrition (DFN) is an Australasian-based independent charity. Through evidence-based education and outreach, we aim to prevent unnecessary suffering for patients, increase career satisfaction for practitioners, and reduce unsustainable healthcare costs.

Evidence shows that a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) eating pattern can prevent, reverse, or significantly reduce the disability caused by the current chronic disease epidemic. And yet, what we eat has long been overlooked and dismissed in mainstream medical intervention. We aim to change how doctors and other healthcare professionals view the role of nutrition in patient care and bring nutrition to the forefront.

Most general practice (GP) consultations in Australia exclude nutrition-related counseling, which is alarming given that poor nutrition is a leading contributor to health loss and early death.

Research conducted in Australia and New Zealand has identified several barriers to GPs providing nutrition care, including perceptions of inadequate skills in nutrition counseling associated with inadequate training, ambiguous attitudes, and differing perceptions about the role of general practitioners in nutrition care.[1]

The Launch of Prescribing Nutrition

Before the pandemic, DFN held a well-attended series called Dine with a Doc, consisting of in-person education sessions over meals. We later decided that an online course would be suitable to the current landscape and accessible to participants regardless of location; it would also avoid any issues with in-person gatherings and enable us to share the message with a wider audience. And so, alongside our Food Vitals educational webinars, the Prescribing Nutrition online course was born.

In early 2022, I was brought on board to help develop the online pilot course for Prescribing Nutrition. During March and April 2022, more than 300 healthcare professionals enrolled in the Prescribing Nutrition course. The first intake was open to medical students, followed by a second intake for medical doctors. The course consisted of blended learning methods—video, text, an interactive assignment, and a live workshop with plant-based medical doctor facilitators, including breakout sessions to work on a case study as a group.

Doctors and dietitians with expertise in WFPB nutrition delivered the course content. They covered the evidence supporting the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet, how to talk to patients about diet (especially within the time constraints of a typical GP consultation), recommendations for sustainable success, communication skills, and everyday practical tips.

For the assignment component of the course, participants undertook real-life nutrition discussions in consultations with patients and reported on their experiences. This was a great opportunity to put learning into practice, encourage reflection, and uncover areas requiring further development.

Powerful Participant Feedback

Via completed feedback forms, we were pleased to discover a few things:

  • After engaging with the course, 100 percent of the participants reported feeling more confident talking with patients about plant-based diets.
  • On a scale of how likely participants would recommend the course to a friend or colleague, the average was 9 out of 10.
  • The most recent feedback shows the course inspired approximately 88 percent of the participants to make personal dietary changes whereby they intend to eat either slightly or significantly more whole plant foods or are inspired to continue with the changes they have already made.

prescribing nutrition

Participants reported that the course introduced material not taught during their university studies and delivered resources to support them.

I noticed that throughout my medical degree, so far, we have only had 2 hours of nutritional teaching, and it was quite lacklustre. Being able to learn more nutritional medicine has already been beneficial towards my placements and I haven’t even graduated yet. I feel that the more that I learn about nutritional medicine I want to make sure I incorporate it into my future practices because it is vital for the holistic view of a patient’s health. – Medical student, VIC

With the application of tools and techniques presented in this course, my nutrition prescriptions will certainly become more effective. – Medical doctor: specialist, SA

The things I have learnt will be used in shaping the direction of consultations and helping me motivate patients towards change. Even small changes can be useful and valuable for patient health. – Medical doctor, QLD

The topics, conversations and references were amazing. I feel so much more knowledgeable than before and am excited to include the information and techniques in my practice. – Nutritionist, WA

I really liked how practical this course was. We all know the plant-based science, but how to practically approach a patient interaction is the art of it all. – Health professional, New Zealand

This was an excellent course on nutrition in medicine. The videos were good. I like the information that I can provide to patients. – Medical doctor, NSW

I am intrigued by what I am learning. I had been sold on the idea of a Keto diet to help patients reverse their diabetes, and I am willing to try this new diet myself before I recommend it to my patients. Thank you for opening my eyes to another option of treatment for my diabetic and hypertensive patients. – Medical doctor, VIC

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Update and Relaunch

From the feedback we received, the main barrier to completing the initial course was time constraints. These included attending scheduled session times and completing the course assignment.

To solve this, we decided to create an on-demand version of the course that would be accessible at any time and have no fixed enrollment dates. We also extended the course to give participants up to six months to complete it and made minor adjustments based on feedback. We replaced the live lesson component with two optional live sessions per year, open to all current and existing students.

In late 2022, the course was approved by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) as a CPD (Continuing Professional Development) activity. This approval provides doctors with points/hours upon completion of the course. As a result, medical doctors who may not have heard of plant-based nutrition have sought out our course to fulfill their professional development requirements.

The generous funding from CNS has enabled us to relaunch Prescribing Nutrition. It is now being offered and promoted widely to reach many more healthcare professionals and students, which means that many more people will learn about the benefits of WFPB eating through the support of their healthcare practitioners.

In the four months since it launched as an on-demand course, we have had over 300 new enrolments.

Nutrition is undoubtedly a powerful tool that every doctor should have in their toolkit. We aim to promote our course far and wide, free of charge and with easy access, and to continuously improve the content based on any feedback we receive.

Healthcare professionals are in the unique position of being a trusted authority across a broad range of topics, and the ripple effect they can have on their patients, their patients’ families, and their wider communities is far-reaching. If you’d like to get involved by sharing DFN’s work with your trusted healthcare professional, donating to our charity, or learning more about us, head to the Doctors For Nutrition website.


  1. Ball LE, Hughes RM, Leveritt MD. Nutrition in general practice: role and workforce preparation expectations of medical educators. Aust J Prim Health. 2010;16(4):304-10. doi: 10.1071/PY10014. PMID: 21138698.

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