Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Undergraduate Dietetics Programs Do Not Support Training Students in Smoking Cessation

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Undergraduate Dietetics Programs Do Not Support Training Students in Smoking Cessation

Article excerpt

Although tobacco use is the leading contributor to death and disability in the United States, allied health professionals often lack knowledge of smoking cessation techniques. The objective of this study was to identify the extent to which undergraduate dietetics programs (referred to as didactic programs in dietetics [DPD]) teach about tobacco and smoking cessation interventions and also DPD directors' opinions regarding tobacco and smoking cessation in dietetics education. All DPD directors in the United States (n = 231) were sent a questionnaire to assess programs' and directors' demographics, courses that included tobacco and smoking cessation education, and directors' opinions pertaining to tobacco and smoking cessation education. The response rate was 49% (n = 113). On average, DPD directors did not agree that tobacco and smoking cessation education should be a formal part of undergraduate dietetics programs and that it is not as important as other content areas required of dietetics students. Just 37% of directors believed that a dietitian's job responsibility included educating patients on smoking cessation. Only 7% of DPD directors had formal education on smoking cessation and tobacco use, but 53% had formal education on behavior modification. More than half of DPD programs (56%) did not offer any courses that provided tobacco and smoking cessation education. These results indicate that most undergraduate dietetics programs do not incorporate tobacco and smoking cessation education in their curricula. Dietetics and other allied health educators could consider including smoking cessation education in their curricula to ensure that future health professionals can contribute to Healthy People 2010 objectives related to smoking cessation.

J Allied Health 2005; 34:218-222.

AS THE DIRECT CAUSE of approximately 440,000 deaths each year, use of cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are the leading contributors to morbidity in the United States.1,2 Since the first Surgeon General's report on smoking was released in 1964, about 12 million Americans have died because of smoking, including 4.1 million cancer deaths, 5.5 million cardiovascular disease deaths, 2.1 million respiratory disease deaths, and 94,000 infant deaths related to maternal smoking.2 In addition, cigarette smoking increases the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, upper respiratory infections, hospitalization for bronchitis or pneumonia, and chronic kidney disease.3-6 In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 46.2 million Americans-22.8% of all adults-were current smokers.7

Because of the pernicious effects of tobacco use, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released clinical practice guidelines in 1996, documenting that all smokers should be offered smoking cessation treatments at each visit with a health care provider; the guidelines also stipulated that all health care providers should be prepared to offer at least one effective smoking cessation treatment during each patient encounter.8 In 2000, the U.S. Public Health Service released Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence,9 which now serves as the updated clinical practice guidelines for smoking cessation. These guidelines are evidence based and reflect research documenting that even brief counseling (i.e., less than three minutes) by clinicians is effective in promoting smoking cessation.3,10,11

More than 70% of current smokers have expressed a desire to quit smoking9; however, even though 80% of U.S. smokers see a physician each year, most are not assisted by a clinician in their attempts to quit smoking.12 One reason may be that only a minority of U.S. medical schools has reported using the Public Health Service's clinical practice guidelines to develop curricula on smoking cessation and tobacco-related issues.13 Furthermore, 12% of medical schools do not cover the topic of tobacco anywhere in the curriculum,14 and 31% spend fewer than three hours on smoking cessation during the entire four years of medical school. …

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