Why nutrition education is inadequate in the medical curriculum: a qualitative study of students' perspectives on barriers and strategies

Victor Mogre*, Fred C. J. Stevens, Paul A. Aryee, Anthony Amalba, Albert J. J. A. Scherpbier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: The provision of nutrition care by doctors is important in promoting healthy dietary habits, and such interventions can lead to reductions in disease morbidity, mortality, and medical costs. However, medical students and doctors report inadequate nutrition education and preparedness during their training at school. Previous studies investigating the inadequacy of nutrition education have not sufficiently evaluated the perspectives of students. In this study, students' perspectives on doctors' role in nutrition care, perceived barriers, and strategies to improve nutrition educational experiences are explored.

Methods: A total of 23 undergraduate clinical level medical students at the 5th to final year in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University for Development Studies in Ghana were purposefully selected to participate in semi-structured individual interviews. Students expressed their opinions and experiences regarding the inadequacy of nutrition education in the curriculum. Each interview was audio-recorded and later transcribed verbatim. Using the constant comparison method, key themes were identified from the data and analysis was done simultaneously with data collection.

Results: Students opined that doctors have an important role to play in providing nutrition care to their patients. However, they felt their nutrition education was inadequate due to lack of priority for nutrition education, lack of faculty to provide nutrition education, poor application of nutrition science to clinical practice and poor collaboration with nutrition professionals. Students opined that their nutrition educational experiences will be improved if the following strategies were implemented: adoption of innovative teaching and learning strategies, early and comprehensive incorporation of nutrition as a theme throughout the curriculum, increasing awareness on the importance of nutrition education, reviewing and revision of the curriculum to incorporate nutrition, and involving nutrition/dietician specialists in medical education.

Conclusion: Though students considered nutrition care as an important role for doctors they felt incapacitated by non-prioritisation of nutrition education, lack of faculty for teaching of nutrition education, poor application of nutrition science and poor collaboration with nutrition professionals. Incorporation of nutrition as a theme in medical education, improving collaboration, advocacy and creating enabling environments for nutrition education could address some of the barriers to nutrition education.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2018


  • Nutrition education
  • Medical students
  • Barriers
  • Strategies
  • Curriculum
  • Qualitative research
  • CARE

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