INTEGRATING NUTRITION EDUCATION INTO THE CARDIOVASCULAR CURRICULUM CHANGES MEDICAL STUDENT EATING HABITS
Robert Zelis, M.D.
Pennsylvania State University, Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA, USA
Background and Objective: Surveys of medical student curricula continue to demonstrate that nutrition education is not universally adequate. One measure of nutritional educational competence is a positive change in student eating habits. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether integrating nutrition education within the second year fall medical student cardiovascular course, while utilizing the “Rate Your Plate” questionnaire (RYP) (©2005 Brown University) coupled with knowledge of student personal 30 year risk of a cardiovascular event were useful in changing students’ eating behaviors.
Methods and Results: Thirty-two students completed an unpublished 24-item questionnaire (modified RYP) about their eating habits in the spring of their first year. The same students then completed the questionnaire in the spring of their second year. Mean scores at baseline and one year later were 57.19 and 58.97, respectively (Paired t-test: p <0.01). Pearson correlation coefficient between 30-year relative risk, adjusted for family history, and change in RYP score was -0.322 (ns) suggesting that risk knowledge did not play a role in changing eating habits. A separate control group of 33 second year students were exposed to the integrated nutrition education program before the RYP questionnaire was introduced into the curriculum. Their RYP score (56.35) was significantly lower than 38 second year students who were taught with RYP plus the integrated program (59.58, p=.041) when data for all participants were analyzed as separate groups by ANOVA and paired comparisons made by Tukey-Kramer test with p correction. This suggests that addition of the RYP questionnaire to the curriculum did contribute to improve eating.
Conclusion: While medical students were eating healthy at baseline, integration of nutrition education within the second year cardiovascular medical curriculum improved heart healthy eating habits. However, knowledge of personal 30-year cardiovascular event risk was not correlated with their change in eating habits.