HCN News & Notes

Health Experts Urge Evaluation of Diet at Routine Checkups

DALLAS — The time has come for routine healthcare visits to include some form of dietary assessment and counseling, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Assoc. (AHA) published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an AHA journal. The statement, written by a group of nutrition and cardiovascular-disease experts, recommends the adoption of a rapid diet-screening tool that can be integrated into electronic-health-record platforms across all healthcare settings.

“Dietary patterns and quality are not sufficiently prioritized when addressing modifiable risk factors during regular healthcare office visits. Given the evidence that diet contributes to disease and mortality, it is a risk factor worth screening for continuously,” said Maya Vadiveloo, chair of the statement writing group and assistant professor of Nutrition and Health Sciences in the College of Health Science at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.

Poor diet quality has surpassed all other risk factors for death, accounting for 11 million deaths and about half of all cardiovascular-disease deaths globally, according to the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study, a comprehensive report on the health impact of diet in 195 countries around the world.

The statement authors reviewed 15 existing screening tools, assessing each to provide insight on the feasibility of incorporating an evidence-based dietary screening tool into routine practice.

The authors list numerous reasons why members of a healthcare team may not address diet quality during a routine office visit: lack of training and knowledge, lack of time and reimbursement, competing demands during the often-short office visit, and the fact that nutrition services aren’t integrated into many healthcare settings.

“However, these barriers can be overcome,” Vadiveloo said. “We want a valid, reliable way to assess diet that reflects the best science, and most of the tools assessed take under 10 minutes to use.”