Helping GPs with nutrition education to overcome chronic illness With a recent report released from the World Health Organisation on the almost four-fold increase in diabetes, Griffith University is stepping in with the launch of a program to help GPs provide effective nutrition advice to their patients.

The Need for Nutrition Education Program (NNEDPro) has a global focus which began at The University of Cambridge and is now being replicated in Australia and New Zealand, as well as 9 other countries.

Already having won the 2015 Complete Nutrition Award for impact in healthcare and shortlisted for the British Medical Journal 2016 Award, NNEdPro is based on previous research showing that GPs are unsure how to educate their patients about the role of nutrition as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Lauren Ball, driving force behind the program


Dr Lauren Ball, a winner of Griffith’s 2015 Vice Chancellor Research Excellence Awards, is a driving force behind implementing the program in Australia.

“Approximately two thirds of general practice consultations concern patients with chronic disease issues such as high cholesterol or diabetes,” says Dr Lauren Ball, NHMRC Research Fellow from the Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ).

“We already know that nutrition is the most influential factor affecting how these conditions are managed, however we have found that the level of nutritional advice provided by GPs is extremely low.

“Now we can report that we have considerable support from nearly all medical schools across Australia — including Griffith – and the two in New Zealand, who have joined up to our network, to offer formalised nutrition education as part of their undergraduate and postgraduate medical programs.

“The ethos behind this is that medical professionals will be educated at the grass-roots level about the science behind nutrition and its value in overall general health, and that this will therefore impact the new generation of up and coming GPs.”

Dr Ball and her team say the current priorities of NNEdPro’s implementation is three-fold.

“We are currently designing online modules that will meet a competency framework laid down by Deakin University who we have been working with on this; these will then be rolled out fairly shortly to several exemplar universities as part of a trial process.

“Secondly we are implementing a website to house all the resources and latest nutrition news to support educators to teach medical students about nutrition. We are also aiming to map out the current medical curriculums of all the universities involved in the program to see where they’re succeeding and where they’re not succeeding, in order that we can take the best approach possible.

“Unfortunately, in other countries such as the US, nutrition education for medicine students takes a somewhat punitive approach, whereby students are not obliged to do too much to demonstrate even basic nutrition knowledge.

“With NNEDPro, we are being proactive in supporting the universities’ learning needs to get nutrition into the curriculum, integrate the topic effectively with the appropriate learning methods and ultimately encourage the GP to be a real advocate for healthy eating and lifestyle.”

This initiative is important given the potential for GPs to support patients to have healthy diets and reduce their risk of chronic disease.