U.S. House recognizes link between diet and health; UofSC Greenville supports national initiative.

June 6, 2022

In a groundbreaking measure, members of the U.S. House of Representatives have recognized the crucial role of lifestyle medicine in medical school education.

The bipartisan resolution, authored by Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) and approved May 17, calls for medical schools, residencies, and fellowship programs to incorporate diet and nutrition education as part of their curricula, and outlines the need for further research and best practices that focus on the connections between diet and disease.

It’s a game-changing move that will ultimately reduce chronic disease and save lives across the nation, and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville is helping to ensure that the long-term goals in the resolution improve preventative care in doctors’ office and hospitals.

“This is a great first step,” says UofSC School of Medicine Greenville’s Associate Professor Jennifer Trilk, PhD, FACSM, DipACLM, an early supporter of the resolution and Director of the Lifestyle Medicine Core Curriculum at UofSC Greenville—the first and only medical school in the country to fully incorporate medical student required education in nutrition, physical activity, sleep hygiene, behavior change, and self-care, including resiliency, into all four years of its undergraduate medical school curriculum.

Dr. Alex Teshon, Congressman Will Timmons, Associate Professor Dr. Jennifer Trilk, and Bob
Siggins, Senior Policy Advisor, on Capital Hill in January 2020.

After establishing this pioneering, award-winning program in Lifestyle Medicine, the faculty at UofSC Greenville are poised to assist other medical schools wanting to teach their students the latest in patient-centered care through their open-source, online Lifestyle Medicine Education curriculum, LMEd.

LMEd also partners with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) to advocate and support implementation of nutrition and lifestyle medicine into the medical classroom at the federal level. In striving to provide more immersive, patient-centered and purposeful physician training, the UofSC School of Medicine Greenville has been transforming how tomorrow’s doctors train.

In January 2020, Dr. Trilk and then second-year medical student Alex Teshon traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators, including Congressman McGovern, who has been a leading voice for nutrition in medical education for a number of years. During that meeting, McGovern verbalized that he was envisioning the parameters of a resolution that would recognize the mounting personal and financial burden of diet related disease in the U.S. and encourage medical education programs to incorporate substantive training in nutrition and diet.

In addition to supporting nutrition-based medical education and patient-centered care, the U.S. House resolution also calls for federally-funded research to develop effective curricular programs to ensure competency in nutrition education and diet related diseases for physicians and other health professionals, and the resolution expresses support for best practices and curricular resources for medical schools. The goal is to provide meaningful nutrition education that will help medical professionals better treat their patients and promote healthy diets.

Obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke are among the leading causes of death and disability nationwide and are inextricably linked to diet. Moreover, the economic costs related to diagnosed diabetes exceed $300 billion per year, and the costs related to obesity exceed $200 billion per year.

“Requiring Lifestyle Medicine training across the spectrum of medical education is critical to reversing the significant morbidity and mortality of chronic disease in our nation,” said Trilk. “Our goal is to listen to the challenges that medical schools are having in delivering and receiving the proper biomedical and clinical education needed to truly make an impact in student learning and downstream patient care, and then support policy work at the federal level, and guidance at the institutional level.”

Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences Dr. Jennifer Trilk, Congressman James P. McGovern,
and Dr. Alex Teshon (then a second-year medical student), on Capital Hill in January 2020.

The resolution, which directly addresses the lack of nutrition training in medical education, was drafted following a Congressional Briefing organized by the Nutrition Education Working Group—a group of nationally-recognized leaders in nutrition science, education, and food and health policy. “Nutrition, food access, and health are not only directly connected to each other, they are directly connected to our progress as a nation. It’s time we treat them as such,” said Congressman McGovern.

“As the first medical school in the country to fully incorporate nutrition and physical activity into all four years of its undergraduate medical school curriculum, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville is an excellent model for how this can be done,” said McGovern.

“My resolution will encourage every medical school, residency, and fellowship program to follow suit and train the next generation of physicians to better understand and appreciate the connection between diet and disease.”