Barriers to providing nutrition counseling cited by physicians: a survey of primary care practitioners

Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Oct;25(5):502-9. doi: 10.1177/0884533610380057.


In a 1995 pivotal study, Kushner described the attitudes, practice behaviors, and barriers to the delivery of nutrition counseling by primary care physicians. This article recognized nutrition and dietary counseling as key components in the delivery of preventive services by primary care physicians. Kushner called for a multifaceted approach to change physicians' counseling practices. The prevailing belief today is that little has changed. Healthy People 2010 and the U.S. Preventive Task Force identify the need for physicians to address nutrition with patients. The 2010 objective was to increase to 75% the proportion of office visits that included ordering or providing diet counseling for patients with a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hypertension. At the midcourse review, the proportion actually declined from 42% to 40%. Primary care physicians continue to believe that providing nutrition counseling is within their realm of responsibility. Yet the gap remains between the proportion of patients who physicians believe would benefit from nutrition counseling and those who receive it from their primary care physician or are referred to dietitians and other healthcare professionals. The barriers cited in recent years continue to be those listed by Kushner: lack of time and compensation and, to a lesser extent, lack of knowledge and resources. The 2010 Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation and First Lady Obama's "Let's Move Campaign" spotlight the need for counseling adults and children on diet and physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Education*
  • Health Resources
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritional Sciences*
  • Physicians, Primary Care*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits
  • Time Factors
  • United States