The Food as Medicine Movement Is Gaining Momentum in Dallas

The relationship between cooking and health goes back at least as far 1893But the concept of culinary medicine has only spread to the world of medical education in the last decade, including a growing program at UT Southwestern.

According to the global burden of disease study The leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States, published by the Journal of American Medical Association, was poor diet. The # 4 cause was obesity. Sectors of the medical industry are starting to put their money where their mouths recognize the importance of nutrition. Doctors can prescribe certain foods that can be paid for with insurance for patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, and create medically-tailored meals for patients with HIV to help cut healthcare costs across the board.

Dr. Jaclyn Albin is an internist and pediatrician at UT Southwestern and assistant program director for the internal medicine / pediatrics residency program. She directs the culinary medicine Classes for freshman medical students at UTSW, one of 55 residency programs nationwide that use the curriculum. “I felt that my students and residents were unable to help people change their lifestyles,” she says. “I noticed that they wanted to help their patients, but the advice doctors give for changing their lifestyle is” eat less and exercise more, “which clearly doesn’t work.”

Albin’s husband and eldest child have celiac disease, and the adjusted diets they needed helped cement the link between health and diet. However, she discovered that there was still a lot to learn. “Professionally, I don’t feel able to deliver what my patients need, and neither do my students and residents,” she thought at the time. “[Physicians] I cannot formulate a formal nutrition curriculum. “

In 2015 she started the Culinary Medicine Program at UTSW with her partner, nutritionist Milette Siler. The program enables students to take classes in the teaching kitchen on campus. The meals are straightforward, nutritious, and tasty. If they’re too complicated or don’t taste good, it’s unlikely to be adopted for future use.

The class is designed to harm the health and well-being of students at a time of increasing doctor burnout, and to give doctors an understanding and passion for culinary medicine that they may one day pass on to their patients. “Culinary medicine can be taught to anyone. It can be taught to anyone who is a layperson or a healthcare professional, ”says Albin. “There is no person for whom it is not relevant. If they can eat and prepare food, that is relevant to them. “

Since its inception, the class has been an instant hit, with a lot more inquiries than spots in the class. During the pandemic, the course went virtual and students cooked in their homes. The program has also hosted groups like the Southwestern Medical Foundation and the Cary Council that provide UTSW with financial support. “DR. Albin’s culinary medicine program is just one cutting-edge segment among many areas of scientifically-supported research that are changing the landscape of medical innovation in Dallas,” said Amanda Eagle George, Chair of the Cary Council, in a press release.

The program has also been expanded to include teaching physical therapy and assistant students. Providers must work in teams of nutritionists, dietitians, and nurses to make a meaningful impact. “Culinary medicine has the opportunity to establish an interprofessional collaboration in which the healthcare system does not always do a good job,” says Albin.

She hopes the program can help doctors break their focus on weight and what to avoid and instead promote whole grains, low fat proteins, fruits and vegetables and give them tools to prepare these foods. Lifestyle changes and the formation of new habits last longer than trying to avoid unhealthy foods. “We’re working with our patients on ways to re-engineer the conversation to see what good things we can practically include in their diet that aren’t currently available, and of course, let the good ones squeeze out some of the bad,” says Albin.

In addition to impacting future generations of physicians and their potential patients, Albin aims to bring the program to patients who need it. The medical development at Red Bird could host culinary medicine programs for underserved communities in the region. Still, Albin recognizes that she is only part of a puzzle of social determinants of health that includes transportation, education, and access to healthy food in common neighborhoods Food desserts. Access to healthy foods is just as important as the ability to cook them, and Albin hopes her program can be part of the solution. “The average doctor in a clinic doesn’t think about how a poor food security patient can’t just go home and cook kale, hoping everyone will eat it when they have just enough resources to support their family for the month feed “, says Albin. “We need to combine nutrition, education, and food access strategies so that we can solve some of the problems that lead to chronic diseases.”

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