Nutrition Education in U.S. Medical Schools: Latest Update of a National Survey

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Abstract

Purpose

To quantify the number of required hours of nutrition education at U.S. medical schools and the types of courses in which the instruction was offered, and to compare these results with results from previous surveys.

Method

The authors distributed to all 127 accredited U.S. medical schools (that were matriculating students at the time of this study) a two-page online survey devised by the Nutrition in Medicine Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From August 2008 through July 2009, the authors asked their contacts, most of whom were nutrition educators, to report the nutrition contact hours that were required for their medical students and whether those actual hours of nutrition education occurred in a designated nutrition course, within another course, or during clinical rotations.

Results

Respondents from 109 (86%) of the targeted medical schools completed some part of the survey. Most schools (103/109) required some form of nutrition education. Of the 105 schools answering questions about courses and contact hours, only 26 (25%) required a dedicated nutrition course; in 2004, 32 (30%) of 106 schools did. Overall, medical students received 19.6 contact hours of nutrition instruction during their medical school careers (range: 0–70 hours); the average in 2004 was 22.3 hours. Only 28 (27%) of the 105 schools met the minimum 25 required hours set by the National Academy of Sciences; in 2004, 40 (38%) of 104 schools did so.

Conclusions

The amount of nutrition education that medical students receive continues to be inadequate.

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