Introduction: Primary care providers play a critical role in reducing patients’ risk for cardiovascular disease, including providing dietary counseling. However, few physicians feel adequately trained to provide this counseling, and most internal medicine (IM) residencies do not offer nutrition education.
Methods: We created an interactive, case-based activity for IM residents to improve the delivery of nutrition counseling to patients with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, overweight, and obesity. The curriculum was given over two in-person small-group sessions facilitated by physician preceptors. It reviewed evidence for relevant dietary patterns, provided resources for dietary referrals, and allowed residents to practice counseling based on a patient’s stage of behavioral change.
Results: Residents completed electronic surveys prior to curriculum implementation, immediately after, and 2 months after completion of the curriculum. Aggregate percent correct scores of knowledge questions improved significantly in the immediate postsurvey (n = 24 paired responses, p = .004). We also reviewed electronic health records of patients with body mass index ≥ 25, hypertension, or hyperlipidemia who were seen in our resident clinics 2 months prior (n = 503) and 2 months after (n = 473) curriculum delivery. Residents’ documented nutrition counseling increased from 35% to 41% (odds ratio, 1.27; 95% CI, 0.97-1.67; p = .085).
Discussion: We demonstrated improved knowledge of nutrition interventions to reduce cardiovascular risk and reported improvement of resident-provided nutrition counseling for appropriate patients. This activity offers IM residents effective initial nutrition training for patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and is practical to implement as part of an ambulatory curriculum.