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[5 min read] Doctors untrained in managing obesity and patient nutrition

A lack of education in medical nutrition management is leaving new doctors unprepared for addressing Australia’s growing obesity crisis.

An international study led by a Queensland scientist has found that graduate doctors are entering the workforce under-equipped to tackle Australia’s biggest health issue.

The findings have prompted calls for nutrition to be included in all physicians’ long-term professional development, as the lack of education is leaving young doctors without crucial confidence and skills. This is in turn impacting their standard of care, especially in obesity prevention.

Around 28 per cent of Australian children are overweight or obese, and these children are likely to grow up to be overweight or obese adults unless they take preventive measures.

Nutrition education is a compulsory part of the curriculum for doctors, but some medical associations believe that doctors should also be required to undertake ongoing professional development in evidence-based nutrition education to support them with up-to-date learnings throughout their career.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of hospitalisations and disability, with around two thirds of adults overweight or obese. This causes a rise in the number of people suffering from chronic illnesses which means more patients are requiring medical treatment in our already overburdened health services.

The study – published recently in The Lancet Planetary Health – reviewed 24 studies from 2012-2018 to analyse graduated medics’ nutritional knowledge. Students in the study reported themselves as lacking required nutrition knowledge.

The study concluded that medical students are not supported with the required nutrition knowledge to be able to provide effective nutrition care to patients, highlighting the need to improve nutritional education for medical students and suggesting that this field should be made a compulsory and meaningful part of the curriculum.

Want to learn more about managing your patients’ nutrition concerns in general practice? Upskill in Medical Nutrition Management.

Medical Nutrition Certificate Courses in Australia


Read more recent research.

Source: Crowley, J., Ball, L., Hiddink, G.J. (1 September 2019.) Nutrition in medical education: a systematic review. The Lancet Planetary Health. Vol 3. Issue 9. PE379-E389.

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