In one minute, you can change the future of health care, and have an enormous impact on reducing our chronic lifestyle driven disease burden that accounts for 84 percent of our $3.8 trillion annual health care bill.
You can sign the petition for the ENRICH ACT (Expanding Nutrition's Role in Curricula and Healthcare (ENRICH) Act, co-sponsored by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), to fund nutrition and physical activity training for doctors in medical school. The funds will come from an existing pool of money, meaning there would be no “extra” cost to the taxpayer.
With one click you can start a domino effect that will address the simple fact that most chronic diseases (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, autoimmune disease, and more) are caused by food, and can be prevented, treated and often reversed by food. Yet doctors learn nothing about food in medical school.
A few weeks ago, I made a trip to Washington, D.C. to help my friend, Representative Tim Ryan, introduce the bipartisan ENRICH ACT into Congress. We briefed other congressmen and their aides, both Republicans and Democrats. Everyone was supportive and understood the importance of training doctors in lifestyle and nutrition.
We must start to address the causes of our health care crisis and chronic disease epidemic that afflicts one in two Americans. Obesity and type 2 diabetes — what I call “diabesity” — affect one in two Americans, and one in four children, and will cost $10 trillion over the next 10 years. Type 2 diabetes, which can be prevented and often reversed by food, accounts for one in three Medicare dollars.
The former Secretaries of the US Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, along with the Bipartisan Policy Center, wrote a clear, impassioned blog on why changing medical school education is a simple, yet powerful lever for change.
The human and economic costs of lifestyle caused disease have wide-ranging risks to our society. If we don't reverse the trend, this lifestyle will result in premature death and disability, and affect our national security because military recruits are not fit to fight, our global competitiveness due to the “achievement gap” that results when our children are too sick to learn, and our economic security, because Medicare and Medicaid costs are only expected to rise in the coming years.
How will we change this?
We must address this through multidimensional efforts that change our food system, the quality of food we produce, access to healthy food, and food policies. These changes must take place in conjunction with increased attention on our environmental impact, and an overhaul of our health care system. A huge part of these changes is helping doctors use food as medicine, which often works faster, is better and is cheaper for treating chronic disease than conventional medication or surgery.
Addressing these problems sometimes seems overwhelming, but the ENRICH Act provides a simple strategy that can have a wide-ranging impact.
The act would establish a $15 million competitive grant program administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in coordination with the NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) for medical schools to integrate nutrition education and physical activity into their curricula.
Medical school education needs to change. Consider these facts:
- A 1985 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report recommended that all medical schools require at least 25 contact hours of nutrition education.
- In 2004, only 38% of medical schools met these minimum standards by requiring 25 hours of nutrition education as part of their general curricula. By 2010, that number had shrunk to 27%.
- Over half of medical students feel their nutrition education is inadequate.
- Current data indicate that few residents, fellows, and other clinicians are comfortable with managing their patients’ nutrition problems.
- 94% of physicians feel that nutrition counseling should be part of primary care visits, but only 14% feel qualified to offer it.
How will the ENRICH Act address this:
- At least 10 grants totaling $5 million per year for three years will go to medical schools, and would fund at minimum of 30 medical schools.
- Grants will target medical schools that combine nutrition and physical activity education with residency programs, help medical schools meet the NAS standard of providing at least 25 hours of nutrition education, and support medical schools that integrate a comprehensive nutrition curriculum that includes physical activity with other health care professional education programs.
- HRSA will submit annual reports and a final report to Congress evaluating the ENRICH grant program and establish best practices for improving nutrition education among physicians.
We often feel powerless to create real change. Once in a while a chance comes along to make a real difference. Now is that time.
So please stop and sign the petition now! It only takes a minute.
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