A review of primary healthcare practitioners' views about nutrition: implications for medical education

Int J Med Educ. 2022 May 26:13:124-137. doi: 10.5116/ijme.6271.3aa2.


Objectives: This study aimed to review literature that reports on the perspectives and opinions of Australian and New Zealand primary healthcare practitioners on their role in nutrition counselling of their patients.

Methods: A systematic search of relevant articles reporting on attitudes towards nutrition counselling by Australian and New Zealand doctors/physicians, nurses including midwives, pharmacists and dentists was conducted. The search included literature from the past ten years until March 2021 and identified 21 relevant papers, with most of the studies including medical practitioners and nurses.

Results: Three main themes were identified from qualitative and quantitative data, which included education and training, practitioner experiences and challenges. Consistent with previous literature, health care practitioners acknowledged their important role in the provision of dietary advice to patients. Challenges that influenced the provision of this advice included insufficient education and training, time constraints and limited knowledge and confidence. Time constraints during normal consultations led to a low priority of nutrition counselling. An absence of assessment opportunities to demonstrate nutrition competence and limited coverage of specific nutrition-related advice during training were also reported.

Conclusions: Primary healthcare practitioners acknowledge the importance of playing a role in the provision of nutrition advice but require education and access to evidence-based information that can be utilised effectively within the time constraints of standard consultations. Medical education curricula can be improved to provide more emphasis on nutrition education, including relevant assessment opportunities.

Keywords: dietary advice; nutritional counselling; primary health care providers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Education, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Midwifery* / education
  • Pregnancy
  • Primary Health Care