Updates in Public Health Nutrition

Last week, we shared Part 1 of our Public Health series. This week, we’re taking a more in-depth look at recent topics in public health nutrition that may be of interest to you and your practice.

As we know, dietitians are on the forefront of public health every day by increasing access to preventive care. Access to medical nutrition therapy is an important feature in a robust health system. Many diseases, such as diabetes, can be prevented with the types of behavioral modifications you discuss with your patients. These preventive services differ from medical services in that they include sessions with patients without a diagnosis and who are not actively presenting symptoms. 

Of particular concern for practitioners and public health professionals in developed economies are chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. In the United States, there is a major economic impact of obesity, manifesting both in direct medical costs and lost wages. And though trends show a slight reduction in the incidence of obesity this year, the percentage of the population that is obese is alarmingly high. Consequently, many public health initiatives seek to prevent obesity. In New York City, for example, obesity is an epidemic. The NYC Department of Health has initiated a comprehensive series of campaigns targeted to help reduce consumption of sweetened beverages, increase access to healthy produce, and promote physical activity

On a national scale, perhaps one of the most contentious debates in public health nutrition centers around food labeling requirements. Recently, it was announced that the Trump Administration will delay the enforcement of new regulations until May of 2018. These new regulations include measures that require disclosure of added sugar, among others. Restaurants would also need to publish calorie information on menus. This comes at a time when most Americans support required food labels, though on the whole are not skilled at reading them. 

Of course, when it comes to public health campaigns, we can’t simply tell people what to do. At the end of the day, we just need to equip patients with all of the information that they need to make informed decisions about their health. Patient empowerment and education will ensure a healthy future. That’s where YOU come in. Do you discuss public health trends with patients during appointments? Comment below!