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Agricultural exposure for healthcare professionals: Summary of the Farming Project Pilot and  Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Conference 2022

By September 16, 2022September 23rd, 2022No Comments

There is a clear need for a greater understanding of nutrition, sustainability, food production and agriculture within healthcare training in order to empower healthcare students and the wider public to improve their own physical and mental health. Many healthcare students are not educated in where their food originates from and receive minimal education on sustainable healthcare. Despite this, many of us turned to nature as a source of escapism during the global pandemic, with multiple studies demonstrating the connection between nature and wellbeing. 

LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) is a leading organisation within the agricultural sector. They work to inspire and enable sustainable farming that is prosperous, enriches the environment and engages local communities. Kate Henderson has worked specifically with LEAF’s education arm to inspire future generations about food, farming, and the countryside. She is also pioneering the work being done with the teenage generation across the agricultural sector. Having worked across the education, farming and food sectors for over 20 years, LEAF Education mobilises farmers and schools to bring food production and farming into a learning context and embed an appreciation of these topics into everyday life. 

The opportunity arose to extend this knowledge to medical students. There has never been a better time for medical students to be educated on the principles regarding food production, sustainable farming and food accessibility. Allowing medical students to see how food is produced, can foster a greater appreciation and understanding of the nutritional content and quality of the foods they consume and will help advise future patients. The course aimed to promote a sense of food justice and to empower students to grow their own food (on a small scale) and connect with their local green spaces. 

The Pilot

Together, Nutritank CIC, LEAF’s Education team and Kate Henderson (of Great Tew Estate) collaboratively ran “Sustainable Healthcare For Our Futures” in the Summer of 2021.

This education series allowed 36 medical and healthcare students to access two virtual webinars. Topics ranged from food production, seasonality and sustainable diets, food miles and food labelling, and a cooking session. After the webinar workshops, the Nutritank team experienced what life is like on a farm and engaged with green spaces at Great Tew Estate. 

Pre-workshop and post-workshop surveys were administered online where information on participants’ professional roles and diets were collected. Participants were asked to share their perceptions of nature and lifestyle nutrition and their knowledge of these topics, including sustainable practices. After the workshops, participants were asked to provide feedback on the webinars and knowledge gained. 

After the webinars, participants agreed that lifestyle medicine and connecting with nature was beneficial for patients and their own holistic wellbeing. When shopping for food, participants were more aware of the following features: country of origin of a product, assurance schemes and welfare status and product seasonality. Participants felt more confident in discussing seasonal and sustainable diets with their patients, including how to eat on a budget and maximising nutritional content with limited resources. Overall, participants strongly agreed that healthcare professionals should be educated on nutrition, food production and sustainability. 

Agriculture, Nutrition and Health (AHN) Conference

Medical Student and Nutritank Research Intern, Kelda Young (@Kelda.Young) analysed the data collated from the “Sustainable Healthcare for our Futures” webinar workshop pilot. She presented at the AHN conference on the 29th June 2022, featuring a 30-second summary during the research conference symposium and answered questions during a follow up-breakout room Q&A style session. 

Watch the recording here! (8:41-9:50)

Summary

The pilot is a feasible solution to improve medical students’ engagement with nutrition, lifestyle, sustainability, and nature. Agriculture-oriented initiatives into medical training for patients, practitioners, and the population support sustainable and practical reforms to the healthcare and food system. 

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