The following is an article from a Community Grant recipient.
It’s official: “nutrition is insufficiently incorporated into medical education, regardless of country, setting, or year of medical education.” That’s according to a 2019 systematic review published in The Lancet Planetary Health, which confirmed the global problem of doctors not receiving essential information about food and its impacts on health and disease.
As in many parts of the world, poor nutrition is a leading cause of disease, disability, and early death in Australia and New Zealand. But as long as there is a deficit in nutrition education, health professionals of all disciplines will not have the knowledge, skills, or confidence to incorporate nutrition into patient care. Doctors For Nutrition, a registered Australian health promotion charity, aims to fix this problem.
Our mission is to inspire the healthcare sector, policy makers, and society at large to adopt whole food, plant-based (WFPB) nutrition as a powerful tool in disease prevention and care. Through evidence-based education and outreach, we aim to prevent unnecessary suffering for patients, increase career satisfaction for practitioners, and reduce the unsustainable costs of healthcare.
In 2020, we launched an introductory guide for health professionals: “Plant-Based Nutrition in Health.” The booklet is available in both digital and physical formats, and is part of a toolkit including numerous educational materials—a “Let’s talk about food” poster, a “Going plant-based” patient handout, a dietary assessment tool, and a list of shopping ideas. So far, thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others, mostly from Australia and New Zealand, have accessed this toolkit. These resources are an important part of the educational events that Doctors For Nutrition hosts, including the Australasian Nutrition in Healthcare Conference.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 in-person events were put on hold. We adapted by putting together a series of free online webinars titled “Food Vitals.” In these, health professionals learned from expert presenters about the crucial role of plant-based nutrition in preventing and treating chronic disease. They learned not only why plant-based nutrition is important, but also how it can transform clinical practice.
The first webinar of the series, “Evidence-Based Nutrition in Healthcare,” launched September 2020. We had 320 live participants, and a further 238 who accessed the video recording and slides at a later date. In a survey afterward, 60% of health professional attendees reported that they were more confident to recommend whole food, plant-based nutrition in their practice. We held three more webinars in late 2020 on the topics of cardiovascular disease, women’s health, and gut health.
As long as there is a deficit in nutrition education, health professionals of all disciplines will not have the knowledge, skills, or confidence to incorporate nutrition into patient care.
All of these educational webinars have given us the opportunity to reach healthcare professionals. We’ve shared our “Plant-based nutrition in health” toolkit with each webinar audience, and each installment of the series has concluded with a Q&A session to help participants think through how nutrition can be applied to their specific practices.
Feedback on the Food Vitals series has been overwhelmingly positive and it is clear that Doctors For Nutrition are filling a gap in nutrition education. Some responses include:
With the support of a CNS grant, Doctors For Nutrition is planning another season of Food Vitals webinars for 2021. Our goal is to engage over 1,000 health workers and students. Part of that effort includes creating partnerships with other health organizations who would like to offer educational experiences to their networks. By working with others, we’ll be able to reach far more health professionals and students, and reach them earlier in their nutrition education journey.
In addition to reaching new audiences, we’re also focused on nurturing our existing community of plant-forward practitioners and increasing their ability to influence change. The focus of Doctors For Nutrition’s webinars will expand to include a wider range of challenges, such as the environmental impact of food and how it links to human health, healthier food policy, and improving equity in access to nutritious foods. The potential for these new topics is huge, and we’re excited to begin this season of webinars in the Australian autumn!
Simultaneous global pandemics of COVID-19 and nutrition-related diseases make nutrition education more important than ever before. The same goes for Doctors For Nutrition’s mission to revolutionize human health and wellbeing through plant-based diet shift.
As a small health promotion charity, we have overcome the challenge of educating large audiences from afar by designing an engaging online webinar series targeted at health professionals. We look forward to continuing to build on that work in 2021.
The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (CNS) is committed to increasing awareness of the extraordinary impact that food has on the health of our bodies, our communities, and our planet. In support of this commitment, CNS has created a Community Grant initiative to empower sustainable food-based initiatives around the world by providing grants to enable innovative start-ups and to propel the growth of existing initiatives. Please consider making a donation to this great cause. 100% of your donation will go to support initiatives like the one you just read about in this article.
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Main photo by Noah Hannibal.
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