Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Sources of nutrition information used by health professionals

Patients often want to know whether they can make simple lifestyle changes to improve their health. The urge to find out about ‘eating healthily’ has meant that health professionals are sometimes asked for nutrition information. With a relative shortage of referrals to dietitians, however, other primary health care professionals are often seen as a source of information.

Sources of nutrition misinformation are common. This extends to sources aimed at both health professionals and the general public.  Consequently, patients are at risk of receiving nutrition misinformation which could have no benefit to their health, or, worse, that might see their overall health deteriorate. Constantly evolving nutrition information combined with a lack of up-to-date training in relation to nutrition for health professionals further increases the likelihood of patients receiving nutrition misinformation.

Many health care professionals regard nutrition information as important and that it is part of their role to give such information to patients.  Despite this, there are still undergraduate programmes for health professionals which exclude nutrition training. When it is provided, the training is often limited because of the packed syllabus.

These findings came from a scoping study conducted by an A-level student on a summer placement, organised by the Nuffield Foundation. Nuffield organises around a hundred placements at universities and private sector companies in the East of England each year, to promote interest in ‘STEM’ subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Fareea Ahmed was supervised in the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Research on Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC). For more information about the placement and the research, please contact Dr Wendy Wills (w.j.wills@herts.ac.uk).

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