Winter 2007

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Family physicians surveyed on nutrition advising attitudes

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A January 2005 self-administered survey focused on family physicians’ nutrition advising attitudes and behaviours in their practice setting and their knowledge of the Canada Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

By Tracy English

In January 2005, a self-administered survey was sent to all family physicians licensed with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador. This survey focused on family physicians’  in their practice setting. The survey also assessed family physicians’ knowledge of, attitudes towards, and use of the Canada Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

A total of 237 (47.3%) surveys were completed and returned. Some of the key findings of the survey were:

  • 37.3% reported having 10 hours or less of nutrition training during medical school and 11.4% reported having no specific nutrition training during medical school.

  • Only 23.0% of respondents reported that they had formal training outside their medical school program (i.e. Continuing Education opportunities).

  • Most respondents (87%) felt that nutrition was very important to health and felt the family physician played a very important role in promoting nutrition to patients (70%). Over 95% of respondents reported that they discussed nutrition with their patients.

  • The majority of respondents indicated that a dietician/nutritionist is both the most appropriate (80.7%) and the most effective (71.4%) primary health care provider to discuss nutrition with patients. A smaller number viewed family physicians as the most appropriate (18.8%) and most effective (25.9%) for this discussion. The majority of respondents (86.1%) reported having a dietician/nutritionist easily accessible in the community.

  • Challenges to the delivery of nutrition information identified by respondents included lack of time (94.7%), insufficient training (64.6%), difficulty motivating patients to eat healthy (59.3%), and difficulty in discussing complex nutrition and health information with patients (47.3%).

  • More than 75% of survey respondents felt that increasing the number of dieticians/nutritionists accessible to family physicians was the best strategy to overcome the challenges they face. Receiving more nutrition education in medical school was selected by 38.7%.

  • Almost all respondents (95.6%) were aware of the Canada Food Guide and 82.3% thought that it was useful when discussing nutrition with patients, although only 59.2% have copies of the Canada Food Guide on hand in their office/clinic and only 45.1% have the Canada Food Guide posted in their office/clinic.

Tracy English (née Weir), a recent graduate from the Division of Community Health and Humanities at Memorial University, would like to extend special thanks to all family physicians who completed and returned her survey. Their time and consideration is greatly appreciated and was integral to the completion of her Masters thesis. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email Tracy.



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