We engaged with the new generation of health professionals at the AMSA Global Health Conference 2021 in Perth and gained some important insight on what medical students think about the role of nutrition in healthcare. Learn more about this event and why improving nutrition education in medical schools is a key step to achieving a healthier society.
On 6-7th August more than 250 medical students came together in Perth, Australia for a few inspiring days of learning and fun at the annual AMSA Global Health Conference 2021. Doctors For Nutrition were there to engage with students and raise the importance of nutrition in healthcare.
With this year’s conference theme ‘Seeds for change’, it was a perfect occasion for DFN to spark interesting conversations with future doctors about a healthcare system that embraces evidence-based nutrition as the first line of defence.
A large number of students visited the DFN stall for information on the benefits of plant-based eating. The DFN team consisted of Nutrition and Research Development Lead, Dr Angela Genoni, Neuroscience PhD Student, Hugo Morandini, and DFN Ambassadoc for Western Australia, Dr Alyce Churchill. Our team was on-hand during the conference, educating the delegates about the important role of nutrition in medical practice and distributing free practical resources.
Dr Angela Genoni said: “Some of the students approaching our stall have already been following vegan or vegetarian lifestyles and were engaging with more in-depth conversations on the benefits of plant-based eating for long-term health.”
“In contrast, we also spoke to a large number of students who confessed that they didn’t know much about nutrition as they were not taught about nutrition in medical school”, added Hugo Morandidi.
On the second day of the conference, Dr Angela Genoni delivered a short talk on ‘The Power of Plants’ where approximately 60 medical students had a chance to learn more about how plant-based nutrition can reduce rates of developing chronic disease.
More than 100 ‘Plant-based nutrition and health’ toolkits were distributed to students to assist them in facilitating nutritional advice during patient consultations.
The DFN team agreed that students' interest in the benefits of plant-based eating was very reassuring. “Students understood very quickly why we needed to be here. It felt we were at the right place at the right time", explained Hugo Morandini.
The gap in nutrition education
“A plant-based diet is a powerful prescription for good health. Many of the world’s leading killers – from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to certain types of cancer – can be prevented by focusing our diets on plant-based foods”, said Dr Neal Barnard, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and DFN International Advisor.
Yet historically, nutrition education is not a major focus of medical training internationally, including in Australia. According to a 2019 study, medical students receive very little nutrition education during medical school. This educational gap makes it very difficult for medical graduates to provide preventative, evidence-based nutrition advice that could help optimise patients' long-term health and combat chronic conditions.
Medical students speaking about nutrition
During the conference, the DFN team had a chance to ask medical students what they think about the role of nutrition in medicine. It was encouraging to hear from students like Jana about her views on nutrition: “Nutrition is one of the key ways to prevent non communicable disease’’, she said. She added that she would like to see much more emphasis should be placed on optimising health through lifestyle, especially given how much misinformation is out there.
Closing the gap
Since 2018, Doctors For Nutrition has been on a mission to fill the educational gap in the current healthcare system by providing nutrition information and resources to current and future medical professionals.
Having the opportunity to work with Australian Medical Students’ Association the organiser of the Global Health Conference 2021 in Perth, was an important step in extending DFN reach to the next generation of doctors. It was also an opportunity to strengthen relationships with AMSA who share a vision for promoting evidence-based nutrition approaches in medicine.
In their position statement, AMSA is calling for a medical education system to improve the quality and quantity of nutrition education so graduating medical students are better prepared to provide appropriate nutritional advice in clinical practice.
After a successful event like the AMSA Global Health Conference 2021, the DFN team is looking forward to collaborating with AMSA on future events to highlight the importance of plant-based nutrition education for medical students.
Missed this event and want to learn more about the benefits of plant-based nutrition?
The DFN website provides a number of practical educational resources designed for health professionals in clinical practice. You can get a copy of the Plant-based Nutrition and Health Guide and access the Food Vital Webinars to learn more about the benefits of whole food plant-based eating. The DFN recipe collection is also a great place to find inspiration for health-promoting recipes and access practical tips when cooking for nutrition.
Martina Brayford is a Doctors for Nutrition volunteer who is passionate about the importance of plant-based nutrition to improve the quality of people’s lives and reduce chronic illnesses. Martina holds a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Centre for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University and studied Food & Nutrition Coaching at the Nature Care College in Sydney.
With her Plant Oceans Nutrition website, Martina is on a mission to promote plant-based eating among her community and friends in Western Australia, advocating the power of food as medicine and sharing local knowledge about plant-based produce.