Teaching hospitals around the U.S., including Grandview Medical Center, are starting to help new doctors learn cooking and nutrition so they can understand how to use food to treat and prevent disease.
Only a third of medical schools teach the recommended 25 hours of nutrition education and residency programs typically teach less than three hours of nutrition education, said Dr. Josie Elrod, who practices family medicine.
Yet the need is there. Elrod said since she graduated 20 years ago from medical school, there have been lots of medical advances. But still, there’s been a rising number of patients that she sees with conditions like heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
“All these health issues are skyrocketing despite all the advantages we have,” Elrod said.
Grandview is donating $260,000 toward the construction of a teaching kitchen at the future Gem City Market, to be used by the culinary medicine program as well as the community.
Gem City Market is a member-owned grocery store planned along the 300 to 400 block of Salem Avenue. The knowledge that the physicians will learn at the culinary medicine program will pair with the increased access to fresh and healthy food when the grocery store opens.
Representatives from Grandview Medical Center, the Grandview Foundation, the Gem City Market, Central State University and the Hall Hunger Initiative, presented details of the teaching kitchen and the grocery store’s progress at a Wednesday event.
The grocery store teaching kitchen will have six kitchen stations, and large tables for gatherings. It also will have a separate entrance so it can be used by members even outside of grocery store hours, said Kenya Baker, community engagement manager for Gem City Market.
“I can’t tell you how much this teaching kitchen will be an asset to our community,” Baker said.
For M0ntgomery County, 36 percent of adults are considered obese, 25 percent are physically inactive and 16 percent drink excessively, according to annual rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Elrod said two years ago, with the support of Grandview’s foundation, she started working with Jennifer Dalton, dietetics and nutrition program director at the University of Dayton, on a culinary medicine program. The program teaches resident physicians cooking skills and helps them understand the changes their patients are being asked to make when they have to adopt a new lifestyle to improve health outcomes.
While physicians already talk to patients about diet and exercise, they might not have the practical skills on how to talk with their patients in a way that can lead to change and troubleshoot what’s standing in the way.
“It’s not enough just to say to ‘eat better, exercise more,’” Elrod said.
In the program, doctors and dietetics students are paired together and work to solve patient cases and become more comfortable with sharing nutrition information with their patients. The sessions also address barriers patients could face, such as having limited time or money, or not having access to healthy food.
“Already we are seeing this change,” Elrod said, saying resident physicians in the program are already using their skills to counsel patients at Cassano Health Center and several residents used what they learned and held a health fair.
Culinary medicine programs are a relatively new development. Tulane University first pioneered the concept when it opened its teaching kitchen in 2012 and other residency programs and medical schools followed suit. The culinary medicine program at Grandview is modeled after Tulane University’s teaching kitchen.
Donna Kuykendall, a nutrition educator with Central State University Extension, said the teaching kitchen will be the ideal venue for future classes, because it will be a new place for the community to call its own and come together.
She said at her classes, people are often quiet in the beginning but open up as they get to know other class members and learn they are dealing with the same struggles.
“A lot of time we want to be silent about the history of diabetes. We want to be silent about hypertension. But it’s when people come together and they feel they are no longer alone that they are able to share and to explore,” Kuykendall said. “So the teaching kitchen is going to be the perfect place for that.”
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