Our Best Food Forward Project Director, Lauren Rathbone, describes how our tried and tested course for Medics and Healthcare Professionals bridges the education gap.
A recent position statement from the Association Of Directors of Public Health recommends that all frontline public sector staff should be trained to have compassionate conversations around food and nutrition.
Although there have been efforts to improve nutrition education in UK medical schools, current training still appears to be insufficient. We felt that incorporating hands-on cooking into nutrition education for healthcare professionals would have some advantages. We therefore developed Best Food Forward for Medics and Healthcare Professionals, incorporating participant feedback and survey data. When we conducted a scoping survey designed to explore current attitudes, knowledge, skills and levels of awareness about food-related topics in clinical practice, we discovered that most healthcare professionals have received less than eight hours of food, diet, and nutrition teaching in their careers. Those who did receive more training often did so following their own initiative.
“It's not something there's a huge focus on in the NHS, and I think we sort of, we just say diet, lifestyle, exercise and all these kind of things like that, don't we? But we don't actually probably get a lot of teaching about it. And I certainly can't remember the last time I had any specific teaching focusing on that” - course participant.
We held pilot sessions with groups of 10-15 GPs and health professionals, mixing theory and discussion with a chance for some practical cooking. Following on from these sessions, participants showed a significant increase in confidence around cooking and talking about food. Specifically, they reported improvements in their confidence in planning (by 13%) and preparing a healthy and well-balanced meal (by 17%). Their fundamental nutritional knowledge also increased by 66%, and they felt 54% more confident about behaviour change theory to support their patients in eating in a more healthy way. Furthermore, 100% of participants found the course valuable, with 69% finding it extremely valuable, not just for their patients, but for themselves.
Food and nutrition play a significant role in the well-being of the UK population, and we are confident that short, enjoyable, hands-on practical and theory training sessions for medics and healthcare professionals can be helpful for further learning.
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