Benjamin Franklin once stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This statement is extremely relevant to how we view our health and our health care system. In the United States, we tend to take the retroactive approach rather than the proactive approach in taking care of our health. This means that we frequently pay more attention to our health after we get sick rather than doing what we can to prevent getting sick in the first place.
But what if the proper health care you needed couldn’t be provided by your physician? Obesity continues to be an ongoing public health issue. More than one third, or about 78.6 million, of the U.S. adult population is obese. Obesity accounts for 10 percent, or about $150 billion, of annual health care spending in the United States. Physicians are more than capable of treating the chronic diseases associated with being obese, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
However, doctors are not always equipped to treat the underlying major causes of these chronic diseases, such as overweight and obesity. During medical school, it is very unlikely that physicians will take any class credits in nutrition. So if your physician recommends that you eat healthy or lose weight, he or she likely doesn’t have the necessary tools to help patients achieve those recommendations.
These leaves open a partnership opportunity between physicians and clinical nutritionists, one that appears to be underutilized.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Clinical nutrition is the study of the relationship between food and a healthy body. More specifically, it is the science of nutrients and how they are digested, absorbed, transported, metabolized, stored, and eliminated by the body.” Studies have shown the relationship between our eating habits and our health. Poor eating habits can play a major role in the development of chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. And the ability to prevent and treat these conditions is possible by making changes to the diet.
A proper partnership between physicians and clinical nutritionists can provide patients with the appropriate resources to help them lose weight or to help prevent patients from becoming obese. All while being treated for other health conditions.
Cultivating new relationships within the health care environment is not an easy task. Health communicators can play an important role in cultivating new partnerships between physicians and clinical nutritionists by campaigning to providers for the need of this partnership in order to improve the health outcomes and prevent illness in their patients.