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Medical Pros Can Lead Healthy Eating Movement

JAMA Publishes Editorial by PAMF Physician

While some health professionals have called for changes to the food environment, less attention is paid to the quality of food medical professionals themselves are eating at medical meetings, conferences and seminars, as well as at hospitals and clinics.

The problem of physician eating habits and potential solutions are described in the September 12, 2012, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA) an international peer-reviewed medical journal.

Lenny Lesser, M.D.

“Most people in the U.S. eat too much food, and physicians are not immune to the obesity epidemic,” says Lenard Lesser, M.D., MSHS, a Family Medicine physician with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) and research physician at the PAMF Research Institute. “If a doctor is overweight, it may affect their approach to patient care, as overweight physicians are less likely to counsel patients about obesity.”

Dr. Lesser co-authored the Viewpoint piece with Deborah Cohen, M.D., MPH, and Robert Brook, M.D., ScD, researchers from the RAND Corporation. He worked with them while he was in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In the Viewpoint piece, Dr. Lesser observes that medical organizations could take several initial steps toward better meals and healthy eating for health professionals.

Similar to the healthy movement of smoke-free campuses becoming a standard, “certified healthy” meals could be an industry model, Dr. Lesser posits.  He points out that the movement for smoke-free workplaces started in hospitals.  A similar movement could start with healthy meals in medical practices, and spread to surrounding communities.

“The medical profession has the capacity to encourage food-system change within its own institutions,” concludes Dr. Lesser.  “This could reduce caloric consumption by health professionals, support the health of physicians, and potentially cause a positive ripple effect in local food economies.

“Caterers could even alter their nutritional sales pitch to indicate that, ‘These are like the lunches your doctor eats’,” Dr. Lesser says.

Dr. Lesser makes several other recommendations to improve the food served to health professionals in the article, including providing calorie labeling and eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages.

Read the entire “Viewpoint” piece entitled “Changing Eating Habits for the Medical Profession” online.

Contact: Dr. Lenny Lesser, 650-330-4576; lesserl@pamfri.org. @LennyLesser

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