Proper diet plays a crucial role in addressing the current epidemics of obesity and chronic disease; however, few Americans have healthy diets that meet clinical recommendations. Because of their important roles in treating chronic conditions related to modifiable health behaviors and the high level of trust their patients have in their expertise, physicians have a great opportunity to counsel patients about their dietary habits. Although considerable national efforts have been invested to improve dietary patterns in the population through the Healthy People initiatives, the prevalence of physician’s counseling on lifestyle factors such as diet remains very low. It is important to identify predictors of physician’s recommendation for healthier eating, and examine the disparities and changing trends over a decade of efforts.
[Photo: Dr. Nasar U. Ahmed]
Led by Health Disparity Researcher Dr. Nasar U Ahmed from the department of epidemiology, Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University, this study used 2000 and 2011 National Health Interview Survey data to assess the trend and identify predictors of physicians’ counseling and examine any changes in disparities over a decade. It’s encouraging that trends in disparities improved over the years, however, the prevalence of physician-delivered advice on diet still showed significant disparities across gender, income, education and insurance coverage status. The study also showed that physicians are beginning to provide more advice on diet to previously overlooked groups such as younger adults and Hispanic patients and are placing greater importance in counseling higher-risk groups such as overweight and obese patients. However, other vulnerable groups of patients, such as uninsured individuals and patients with low levels of education, represent missed opportunities for primary and secondary prevention.