09/01/2020 - Below is a letter to the editor of Circulation written by Linda T. Farr, RDN, CSOWM, LD, FAND, of San Antonio, Texas, the 2020-2021 President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This letter is in response to the statement Rapid Diet Assessment Screening Tools for Cardiovascular Disease Risk Reduction Across Healthcare Settings: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association that was published online August 7, 2020.
August 26, 2020
I was surprised and disappointed to see that, except in passing, the critical role of registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) as an integral part of a patient's health care team – and as a valuable partner for any physician – was not explored in the American Heart Association's Rapid Diet Assessment Screening Tools for Cardiovascular Disease Risk Reduction Across Healthcare Settings. It is well within the RDN's scope of practice to provide education and counseling for all barriers to a healthy diet.
Medical nutrition therapy provided by a qualified professional such as an RDN is linked to improved clinical outcomes for persons with cardiovascular disease, disorders of lipid metabolism and obesity/overweight.1
Patients correctly view physicians as a trusted source of information and treatment; physicians should determine the nutrition and obesity prevention and treatment messages they have the time and skill to provide to their patients. However, there is an important difference between advising patients on the basics and the in-depth counseling provided by an RDN who has the knowledge and skills needed to help individuals make changes that can affect outcomes.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics maintains a national, searchable online referral service enabling consumers and clinicians to locate an RDN in their area. It also offers a free continuing medical education–accredited webinar on how RDNs add value to physicians' practices.
Referring patients to RDNs "could be one of the most important ways that health care professionals help patients learn about, implement and sustain behavior changes."2
We support the quest to strengthen academic requirements and the inclusion of nutrition for medical professionals. However, our goal should not be to develop medical professionals who are nutrition experts. Rather, we need to develop medical professionals who understand the role of nutrition throughout the lifecycle and in the prevention and management of disease and know how to use the results of a quick screen to appropriately and effectively refer patients to the RDN.
Thank you very much.
Linda T. Farr, RDN, CSOWM, LD, FAND
San Antonio, Texas
President 2020-2021, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) systematic review. (2013-2015).
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. MNT Heart Failure guideline. (2017).
- Bipartisan Policy Center. Teaching nutrition and physical activity in medical school: training doctors for prevention-oriented care. June 23, 2014.