Better nutrition information for GPs

19 December 2016
Image of Dr Jennifer Crowley.
Dr Jennifer Crowley

Improving the quality of nutrition information available to general practitioners for their patients, is the focus of a study funded by a new research fellowship.

The first Sir John Logan Campbell Medical Fellowship was awarded this week to University of Auckland nutrition and dietetics expert, Dr Jennifer Crowley.

“The new fellowship addresses a need to support and encourage outstanding early career academic staff at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences to seek overseas study which will catalyse career development and potentially have significant long term health benefits for New Zealand,” says the Associate Dean (Postgraduate) for the Faculty, Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin.

The fellowship aims to supply outstanding early career academics with assistance towards travel, accommodation and subsistence costs to support overseas study leave for a period of up to three months.

Dr Crowley will attend the Need for Nutrition Education/Innovation Programme (NNEdPro) International Summit in Cambridge, England in June 2017 that features key world experts in GP nutrition education.

“I really appreciate receiving this award as it will allow me to consult with international experts about their successful approaches to GP nutrition continuing education, to consider for applicability and potential engagement by GPs for the New Zealand context,” she says.

As nutrition knowledge is constantly evolving, Dr Crowley will stay in Cambridge for three months to investigate aspects of nutrition education for GPs, including;

  • What continuing nutrition education is available for GPs in the UK and the US such as nutrition assessment, nutrition across the lifestyle continuum, nutrition for specific conditions, and nutrition counselling
  • The effectiveness and sustainability of GP nutrition education with regard to the evolving nature of evidence-based medicine
  • Smarter ways of keeping GPs informed of changes in nutrition that can be followed through to impact on clinically relevant health outcomes

Dr Crowley says this may include tools embedded in patient management systems that provide decision trees including appropriate questions GPs can ask patients during consultations to provide relevant nutrition care that does not necessarily increase consultation time.

“Ideally, I’m looking at practical ways to support and reinforce New Zealand GPs to provide nutrition care to patients when appropriate and for GPs to recognise when to refer to other health care professionals,” she says.

“My research focus is on GPs because the incidence of chronic disease in New Zealand is increasing and expected to rise.”

Patients with chronic disease are high users of health care services and incur high personal and economic costs. The World Health Organisation recommends that chronic disease treatment in primary care benefits patients and potentially provides the most cost-effective outcomes for them.

“GPs are patients’ initial contact point with medical services, making management of these patients an increasing component of GPs’ workloads,” says Dr Crowley. “GPs are also patients’ most trusted source of nutrition information. Nutrition behaviour is a modifiable determinant of chronic disease and is included in its treatment and management.”

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