David Eisenberg, MD, and Jonathan Burgess
In an era when rates of obesity, diabetes, and other lifestyle-related diseases challenge medical educators and governments worldwide, it is necessary to consider novel educational strategies, both didactic and experiential, whereby current and future health professionals can be better prepared to proactively advise and teach patients enhanced self-care skills (e.g., diet, movement, stress management, and enhanced behavioral change).
In this Perspective, the authors summarize current circumstances involving rising rates of obesity and diabetes worldwide; the lack of nutrition- and lifestyle-related curricular requirements for professional medical certification; societal trends regarding modern food culture and food availability in health care settings; as well as the misalignment of financial incentives to promote health.
The authors assess what elements of self-care should or should not be required within future curricula and certification exams. They consider how best to educate trainees about diet, and how to “translate” nutrition, exercise, and behavioral science knowledge into practical advice. They explore several ideas for reforming nutrition education, including “teaching kitchens” as required laboratory classes for nutrition and lifestyle instruction, wearable technologies for tracking behaviors and physiological data relating to lifestyle choices, and the prospect of hospitals and other medical venues serving as exemplars of healthy, delicious food options. Finally, the authors argue that “salutogenesis”—the study of the creation and maintenance of health and well-being—should assume its rightful position alongside the study of “pathogenesis”—disease diagnosis and treatment—in medical education and practice.