Focus on diet, nutrition and eating smart this week

In Central Queensland, Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay by PHN Communications

Much of the chronic disease burden is attributable to factors such as overweight and obesity and inadequate diet that can be reduced or prevented by behavioural and lifestyle changes. This is a pressing challenge faced by our communities where rates of overweight and obesity, a major driver of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, is significantly higher among residents in the PHN catchment compared to the QLD and national rates.

General Practitioners are in the ideal position to help people access credible information and encourage them to have a healthier diet. A recent study demonstrates that GPs are regarded as highly trusted providers of personalised nutrition care.[1]  It is well recognised that GPs can help patients improve diet by providing simple, brief nutrition advice,[2] or referring their patients to other parts of the health-care workforce that could help.

Giving nutrition advice has to contend with the competing priorities of often more pressing health-care needs. But there are opportunities for practices and practitioners to include nutrition as part of their everyday care. Some simple practice tips to keep in mind include:

  • Focus on initiating discussions around nutrition with all patients as a priority for every appointment.
  • Consider targeted approaches, such as prompting patients in waiting rooms encourage to patients raise the topic of nutrition as part of their consultation. We know from research that patient request for nutrition advice has been shown to be a strong predictor for nutrition being discussed in a consultation.[3]
  • Encourage patients through simple and consistent messaging and promote evidence based guidelines like the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Focus on supporting healthy changes in behaviour, rather than specific facts about food or nutrients.
  • Use consistent messaging and statements such as “it’s important for your health to eat well” or “eating more fruit and vegetables would help your health” to place importance on the types of foods their patients eat.
  • Understand there are many social, emotional and environmental factors that may impact on a patient’s quality of diet and their health[4] – GPs can play an important role in assisting patients to access other parts of the health care system (dietitians, psychologists, healthy lifestyle programs and the like) for additional support.

My Health for Life is a free lifestyle program that is available for your patients at high risk of developing chronic disease. To find out more, visit My Health for Life website.

[1] Ball L, Desbrow B & Leveritt M. An exploration of individuals’ preferences for nutrition care from Australian primary care health professionals. Australian Journal of Primary Health. 2013; 20(1):113-120.

[2] Ball L, Johnson C, Desbrow B & Leveritt M.  General practitioners can offer effective nutrition care to patients with lifestyle-related chronic disease [Review]. Journal of Primary Health Care. 2013; 5(1):59-69.

[3] van Dillen SM, Hiddink GJ, Koelen MA, de Graaf C & van Woerkum CM. Identification of nutrition communication styles and strategies: a qualitative study among Dutch GPs. Patient Educ Couns. 2006. 63(1-2):74-83.

[4] Friel S, Hattersly L, Ford L. Evidence review: Addressing the social determinants of inequities in healthy eating (2015). Australian National University, Australia.