Challenges and opportunities for nutrition education and training in the health care professions: intraprofessional and interprofessional call to action1-4

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Abstract

Understanding and applying nutrition knowledge and skills to all aspects of health care are extremely important, and all health care professions need basic training to effectively assess dietary intake and provide appropriate guidance, counseling, and treatment to their patients. With obesity rates at an all-time high and the increasing prevalence of diabetes projected to cost the Federal government billions of dollars, the need for interprofessional nutrition education is paramount. Physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, dentists, dental hygienists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, and others can positively affect patient care by synchronizing and reinforcing the importance of nutrition across all specialty areas. Although nutrition is a critical component of acute and chronic disease management, as well as health and wellness across the health care professions, each profession must reevaluate its individual nutrition-related professional competencies before the establishment of meaningful interprofessional collaborative nutrition competencies. This article discusses gaps in nutrition education and training within individual health professions (ie, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, and dietetics) and offers suggestions for educators, clinicians, researchers, and key stakeholders on how to build further capacity within the individual professions for basic and applied nutrition education. This “gaps methodology” can be applied to all health professions, including physician assistants, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, and occupational therapists.

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