Course promotes health through food, exercise

Online teaching | Information inconsistent

Doctors tend to look at sickness rather than wellness, says the president of the Canadian Nutrition Society.

More focus is needed on promoting health by eating and exercising properly.

“If you think about modifiable risk factors for chronic disease, it relates to food and activity,” said Leah Gramlich, who is also a gastroenterologist at the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine.

Too many sick people suffering from chronic conditions are given drugs when improved nutrition could complement their treatment, she said at Future Fare, sponsored by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency June 19 in Calgary.

The university hopes to improve and change that approach by launching an online, three credit course to teach all health-care students about the value of exercise and proper diet, including doctors, nurses, nutritionists, pharmacists and dentists.

The Wellness Rx website will be launched later this year with support from ALMA.

Forty percent of the provincial budget is spent on health care. In fact, Gramlich said Alberta spends more per capita on health care but its citizens are no healthier.

“In Alberta, we have the capacity to generate grassroots strategy and facilitate a shift from an illness-based health-care system to a wellness-based health system,” she said.

Patients need credible information about food. They expect doctors, nurses and other professionals to know what they are talking about, but that trust is often misplaced because few have nutritional training. Physicians probably do three to seven years of post-graduate training, but it often doesn’t include food knowledge.

The organizers of the U of A program found health-care professionals need specific training because there is inconsistent knowledge about lifestyle modification.

She admitted the course was difficult to integrate into the medical curriculum. It needs to be interesting, but doesn’t need more instruction about the Canada Food Guide because most children already learn about it in school.

Students need concepts to build enduring understanding and help patients think about the food they eat.

“We also wanted learners to improve their own health and then have the ability to improve the health of their future clients,” Gramlich said.

“Health-care professionals need to be viewed as a credible source of information.”

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