Biden's $8 billion plan to end hunger: Takeaways for clinicians

By Joe Hannan | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published October 14, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • The Biden administration’s plan to tackle hunger and malnutrition in the US includes changes for how clinicians are trained.

  • Many healthcare professionals (HCPs) will see training opportunities and certification requirements specific to nutrition and other lifestyle-based interventions.

  • Clinicians can familiarize themselves with these initiatives, learning how clinical education may change in the future.

As portions of the US population struggle with food insecurity and nutrition-related diseases, the Biden administration has stepped in with an $8 billion intervention.[]

It includes public and private sector dollars to eliminate hunger and food insecurity, better incorporate nutrition screening and guidance into healthcare, and promote physical activity.

These initiatives are poised to alter how clinicians are trained and how they practice.

Addressing nutrition training

According to the CDC, nine out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium, one of every six pregnant women have low iron levels, and fewer than one in 10 Americans meet daily fruit and vegetable consumption guidance.[] Those dietary deficits contribute to about $173 billion spent on managing obesity. Such factors have prompted the Biden intervention.

A common critique of medical education among physicians is insufficient nutritional training. A 2019 Lancet Planetary Health review concluded that medical students lack the training to deliver quality, effective nutrition care.[] The Biden initiative aims to amend that.

It includes a commitment from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to train all AAP pediatricians on food insecurity screening and equip them to connect patients to community and federal nutrition resources. The AAP will steer these training efforts by evaluating pediatricians’ comfort with assessing and counseling on food insecurity, as well as monitoring screening rates and referral outcomes.

According to an AAP news release, its participation is the continuation of a pilot program launched in 2021 in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Montana, and Washington, DC.[] In these states, the AAP chapters have partnered with non-profit project funder Share our Strength to tackle state-specific issues.

Pediatricians in these states have launched nutrition initiatives or partnered with existing ones. The AAP said that some pediatricians are striving to increase recertification in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, for example.

Programs will launch next in Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, and Utah. The AAP plans to have every state covered by 2030.

"Pediatricians play a vital role in identifying nutrition insecurity in their patients, and this important work will help ensure that families in need can be connected to federal and community resources that support strong nutrition and their overall health."

Moira A. Szilagyi, MD, PhD

Lifestyle medicine

The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) announced it will donate $24.1 million to strengthen nutrition training for HCPs. That includes 5.5 hours of CME credits on topics specific to food as medicine, which will go to HCPs in areas with increased rates of dietary disease.

Also, 1,400 PCPs—one from each of the nation’s Federally Qualified Health Centers—will receive a 50% discount for lifestyle medicine training and certification. The ACLM and the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine will cover the cost.

Founded in 2004, the ACLM now has more than 6,000 practicing physicians, representing every continent.

Lifestyle medicine relies primarily on lifestyle modification as medicine, and chief among its six pillars is nutrition. It emphasizes plant-based diets rich in seeds, nuts, whole grains, fruit, beans, lentils, and vegetables.

“It is clear that simply managing the symptoms of chronic disease with ever-increasing quantities of expensive medications and procedures without addressing the root causes of those diseases is a failure of our health care system,” said ACLM president Cate Collings, MD, in a news release.[]

Nutrition summit

Rounding out the national initiatives, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education have announced a first-of-its-kind Medical Education Summit on Nutrition in Practice to be held in March 2023.

It will include 150 leaders from medical education, including representation from continuing education programs, residency training, and medical schools. They will discuss how to best educate future physicians on nutrition and food insecurity, focusing on collaboration among HCPs and health equity movements.

Ten other healthcare organizations—representing dentistry, public health, pharmacy, and medicine—have also pledged to improve HCPs’ nutrition education.

This pledge includes:

  • Making nutrition education a foundational competency

  • Training clinicians on lifestyle interventions for chronic disease

  • Ensuring that training programs include at least one educator with nutrition science training

  • Creating more nutrition-focused continuing education, and increasing the credit value of those classes

  • Making at least 5% of board exam questions on the topics of lifestyle, nutrition, and hunger for both subspecialty and primary training programs

All of these initiatives may prove to be a step in the right direction, when considered in the context of the Lancet Planetary Health systematic review.

“Medical education will be enhanced by institutional commitment to make nutrition education compulsory in training, the establishment of nutrition competencies to guide a benchmark for nutrition knowledge and skills to be included into curricula and supported by funding for innovative curriculum initiatives,” the researchers wrote.

What this means for you

The Biden administration’s plan will usher in training and education requirements for many HCPs on nutrition-focused and lifestyle-based interventions. Ultimately, these changes may address longstanding complaints that physicians and other medical providers receive insufficient training on these subjects and could curb the negative effects of poor diet and lifestyle choices on health and well-being.

Read Next: Inside the CDC's latest dietary findings
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