Is flavor a health issue? About 400 doctors, who spent a long weekend at the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference at the Culinary Institute in Napa, might argue that it is. The conference, which is a collaboration between the Culinary Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health, seeks to teach doctors how to cook delicious, healthful foods so that they can take that knowledge back to their patients.
Physicians are the first responders to our nation's obesity and diabetes epidemics, yet many graduate from medical school with very little knowledge of nutrition, and zero med-school training in how to cook up a healthy meal. So Dr. David Eisenberg, an associate professor at the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, dreamed up this initiative to help bring his colleagues out of the exam room and into the kitchen.
The conference covers all sorts of topics from knife skills to wine pairings bringing together chefs and doctors to make presentations about the research and health benefits of foods as well as the proper techniques to prepare them in healthy and totally craveable ways.
And research supports Dr. Eisenberg's theory that doctors should be role models. A recent report in the journal Obesity noted that doctors who had healthy lifestyles were more likely to advise their patients to do the same.
The conference has already had a measurable impact. Students of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston started a program through which they brought in chefs to teach cooking demonstrations in their student lounge. Another doctor reported that he installed a demonstration kitchen in his office and offers cooking classes to his patients now.
It's a definite case of "doctor, heal thyself," with many of the participants readily admitting that they've never cooked before in their lives. But Dr. Eisenberg hopes that if he makes the kitchen less of a mystery to his colleagues, they will help demystify it for their patients in turn.