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  • Docs Need to Get Up To Speed on Physical Activity, Nutrition

    America's physicians aren't educating their patients on weight, diet, and physical activity because America's physicians aren't themselves educated on weight, diet, and physical activity. That needs to change, and soon, according to a coalition of organizations calling for more coverage of these issues in medical schools.

    In a recently released white paper (.pdf), titled "Training Doctors for Preventive Care," the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and the American College of Sports Medicine write that "America's medical education and health care delivery system does not currently provide doctors with the experience or incentives to deliver messages about weight, diet, physical activity, and chronic disease in a consistent and effective manner." The paper asserts that even while obesity rates in the US have been climbing, the average number of hours devoted to nutrition education has been dropping to the extent that now fewer than 30% of medical schools provide the minimum hours of nutrition education recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. The group also released an infographic (.pdf) highlighting the problem.

    According to the coalition, physicians are aware of the gap in training: a recent survey found that only 1 in 4 doctors feel they received adequate training on how to counsel patients on diet or physical activity.

    In the white paper, the organizations make 9 recommendations that they believe will begin to fix the problem, including the development of standard nutrition and physical activity curricula, increased nutrition and physical activity requirements for residencies and continuing education, reimbursement of health services "that target lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise," and the expansion of board-accredited training programs "to create a cadre of experts in nutrition and physical activity who can teach health professionals." The coalition's recommendations were featured recently in a Washington Post report.

    "Ensuring that medical professionals have the tools and expertise to address nutrition and physical activity is only one part" of a broader agenda to reduce obesity and chronic disease nationwide, the report states. "Nonetheless, it is an area where practical improvements are within reach, if policymakers and stakeholders work together to implement changes."

    APTA has long supported the promotion of physical activity and the value of physical fitness, and is involved with the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP), where the association has a seat on the NPAP Alliance board. The association also offers several resources on obesity, including continuing education on childhood obesity, and a prevention and wellness webpage that links to podcasts on the harmful effects of inactivity.

    TBI Reauthorization Bill Approved by House

    Prospects are good that government-sponsored research and data collection on traumatic brain injury (TBI) will continue now that the US House of Representatives has passed the TBI Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1098). APTA was among the organizations advocating for the bill, and some members were on Capitol Hill when the bill passed as part of an association "fly-in" on rehabilitation research.

    The measure was passed by voice vote in the House on June 25, and will now move on to the Senate. If it passes the Senate and is signed into law, the act will provide funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for TBI research and programs supporting individuals with brain injury. APTA applauds the passage of this bill in the House.

    Advocacy for the reauthorization is part of a broad APTA push to bring attention to TBI and rehabilitation in general. ATPA's efforts include involvement in the Joining Forces initiative, promotion of the Protecting Student Athletes From Concussions Act (H.R. 3532) (.pdf), participation in a congressional Brain Injury Awareness Day in March, and most recently, the fly-in that allowed APTA members to speak with members of Congress and their staff on the importance of rehabilitation research (see related News story).

    APTA provides extensive resources to its members on the role of physical therapy in brain injury treatment and recovery, and offers a TBI webpage that includes continuing education courses and links to other interest groups.

    Rehabilitation Research Back in Advocacy Spotlight

    They're baaack.

    Physical therapy researchers returned to Capitol Hill June 24-25 to advocate on behalf of rehabilitation research funding, and to press for passage of a Senate bill that would better coordinate these efforts within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Coordinated by APTA and sponsored by the Section on Research, the "fly-in" involved 10 researchers from 10 states who met with staff of the House and Senate appropriations committees and their individual members of Congress to talk about the value of rehabilitation research. The researchers also urged passage of the Rehabilitation Improvement Act (S 1027), a Senate bill introduced by Sens Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Tim Johnson (D-SD), that calls for a working group comprising various NIH institutes and centers to update and streamline NIH's rehabilitation research priorities.

    2014 - June 25 NN - Research Flyin 
    Physical therapy researchers made their case to members of Congress
    and their staff at the June 24-25 rehabilitation research fly-in.

    The researchers were well-received, and were fortunate enough to be on Capitol Hill on the same day the House of Representatives passed the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Reauthorization Act that ensures the continuation of research sponsored by NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (see related News story).

    The fly-in was capped off by a Congressional briefing that featured Pamela Duncan, PT, PhD, FAPTA, and focused on the economic impact and return-on-investment of rehabilitation research. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) participated in the session, which was introduced by Rep Lee Terry (R-NE).

    2014 - June 25 NN - Research Briefing 
    APTA cohosted the Return on Investment of Rehabilitation Science briefing.