Doctors And Their Eating Habits: Maybe It Is Time For A Change

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Doctors And Their Eating Habits: Maybe It Is Time For A Change

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Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 9:00am

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By: Dr. Len

Every once in a while a medical journal takes a bit of a leap by publishing an article or opinion piece that may just be a bit out of their usual norm or comfort zone. Today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) may have done just that with a discussion of physician eating habits, and exhorting doctors to get to the heart-or should I say "meat"-of the matter and set an example for their patients.

Although I may sound like I am being a bit "tongue in cheek" about the article, it is actually a topic that I have thought about frequently in the past.

Go to a medical meeting, or for that matter to any meeting which is medically oriented or there are medical implications-and take a look at the food service and you will understand what I mean. Or perhaps your local hospital cafeteria would be a good start. Our local hospital is well-known for their fried chicken, and when it is served I understand the line goes out the door. And then look at the puny salad bar, stuck in the corner... Well, I suspect you get the picture. We medical folks just don't do a great job of setting a good example when it comes to what and how much we eat. 

So here is the basic thesis of the JAMA article, as outlined in the first paragraph:

"Health professionals spend a great deal of time at meetings...At many of these activities, food is available. Although some members of the health professional community have called for changes to the food environment in the community in which they live, they have paid less attention to the quality of food served at hospitals, physician offices, and at conferences."

To which I say, "Yes, yes, yes!!!!!"

Do you have any idea how many lousy meals I have eaten as a doctor? How many pizza lunches I endured, especially during training? How many wonderful snacks I consumed late at night while in training (one hospital in South Philadelphia-a part of town well-known for its Italian cooking--was particularly notorious for piling plates high at dinner time in the cafeteria and having tons of Tastykakes and other delicious morsels in the "on call" rooms at night). Even today I go to meetings where the food, although delicious, is a heart attack on a plate. You just can't hide from the calories offered on a regular basis in medical meetings and educational settings.

The authors of the JAMA report note that such behaviors are still pervasive throughout the medical meeting world we live in, and that these "are meals at research meetings, funded at least in part by 21,000 grants from the National Institutes of Health and health foundations." And I would be remiss not to include organizations like my own beloved American Cancer Society on that list.

So why all of this interest and concern?

Read more of his blog article here.

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