Congress Tackles Nutrition Studies As Medical Tool With ENRICH ACT
By Dina Eliash Robinson
With a proposed $15 million grant to fund it, the bipartisan “Expanding Nutrition’s Role in Curricula & Healthcare” (ENRICH ACT—H.R. 1411) bill recently submitted in the House by Representatives Tim Ryan, D-Ohio and Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, opens the door to a mandated upgrading of the woefully inadequate courses now masquerading as nutrition education or training in medical schools.
While the bill is long overdue after decades of ignored requests for such enhancements by both practicing physicians and healthcare-track students, it is a step in the right direction and merits all-out public support. Phone calls and e-mails to Congressional representatives, along with consumer efforts to goose media attention for the ENRICH ACT, are sure to help expedite its passing and implementation.
Until now, the lack of active support for similar legislation by those who would most benefit from providing healthcare workers with preventive tools, can be blamed for the fact that three out of four medical schools in this country still do not live up to the 1985 Federal recommendations for either in-school or mandated continuing post-degree nutrition education. Even though nine out of 10 physicians have been, all along, strongly advocating the inclusion of nutrition counseling in primary care.
Economic Consequences—Who Wins? Who Loses?
Lacking expertise in holistic prevention and health-maintenance skills, physicians’ tools have been limited mostly to expensive and often risky tests, invasive procedures and prescription drugs—with side effects, which, in some cases, also include addictive properties. What’s more, since time-strapped primary physicians have to delegate most testing and procedures to technicians and specialists, the formers’ ability to perform their most important medical function—finding potentially life-saving diagnoses—is handicapped.
There are both economic and qualitative differences between diagnoses obtained through costly testing and trial-and-error procedures, and those made by doctors who possess the full spectrum of “Healing Arts” skills:
- scientific training;
- talent, intuition, passion for and commitment to their profession;
- communication (mostly listening) and keen observation;
- familiarity with patients and their circumstances;
- trust-building relationships, viewing and caring for patients as individuals.
Benefits of the Holistic Healthcare Approach
Pardon the editorializing, but where is the profit or commonsense in a healthcare system that allows more time (and expense) for impersonal (often invasive, risky and painful) testing conducted by technicians than for doctor-patient interactions?
Both doctors and patients find the lack of a holistic approach to the “healing arts” equally difficult and economically untenable. Doctors are frustrated by patients’ increasing sophistication in gathering (not always accurate) online information and their resulting fear, mistrust in, and resistance to certain prescribed treatments—and even more by their defection to alternate health practitioners.
Meanwhile, consumers who do abandon allopathic medicine and seek alternative treatments, are shouldering the double expense of must-have health insurance and the out of pocket cost of uninsurable or only partly covered holistic healthcare—such as acupuncture, chiropractic, trainers or counselors in homeopathy, herbalism, naturopathy, nutrition, exercise, etc.
Here are some of the reasons the ENRICH bill is needed more urgently than ever:
- About 70 percent of deaths in the United States are caused by chronic diseases—such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular conditions—which have reached epidemic proportions and are driving healthcare costs beyond what consumer and government budgets can sustain much longer.
- Since most of the chronic diseases are either caused or precipitated by obesity and the consumption of foods loaded with toxic chemicals, sugar, salt, trans- and saturated fats, they can be prevented by making some basic lifestyle adjustments.
- For years, countless research programs and statistical evaluations have concluded that the most effective way to improve the nation’s health is to prevent illness before it occurs.
- The most effective prevention methods are a healthy diet—consisting of moderate quantities of preferably organic and mostly plant-based foods—combined with moderate exercise and stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, biofeedback, Yoga, etc.
- Weight management and wellness depend on a combination of both healthy eating habits and exercise appropriate to individual needs and abilities. (Neither works alone.)