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Nutrition

Information to patients on Food and Nutrition

In March 2018, EPF published a position statement on information to patients on food and nutrition. This position statement reflects EPF’s preliminary position on the topic of information to patients on food and nutrition, to be explored further in the coming years.

In line with its responsibilities as an agent for public health, for our specific constituency, and given the interest of EPF members on this topic, EPF will in 2018 and onwards elevate its strategy in the sphere of information to patients on nutrition, with a particular accent on medical nutrition.

This position statement presents nutrition as a bare necessity and an essential component of disease management. It highlights the importance of food and nutrition in the prevention and management of chronic and long-term conditions, focusing on three categories: Nutrition in primary prevention and improved disease management; Nutrition in the management of chronic conditions and better health outcomes and Medical nutrition.

The document goes on to explore and explain the EU legislation related to information to patients on food and nutrition.

The position ends with a statement and key recommendations on the fundamental role of patient organisations in policy-making; information and awareness; regulatory requirements; research; access to appropriate nutrition and reimbursement and disease-specific needs.

With this new position statement, EPF advocates for a lifecycle approach to nutrition, affirming that nutrition has a significant role to play in the prevention, treatment and management of many chronic and long-term conditions, from pre-conception care to care of older people.

In terms of nutrition, EPF’s objectives are the following:

  • EPF aim to first and foremost raise awareness of the role of nutrition and diet in managing long-term conditions, maintaining optimal health and quality of life;
  • Coordinate the patient perspective on the topic of information to patients on nutrition;
  • Emphasise the importance of health literacy and informed decision-making concerning nutrition and
  • Outline shortcomings in existing policy and legislation from the patient perspective.

EU Patient Task Force on Nutrition

In line with the objectives mentioned above, in February 2018, EPF set up an EU patient task force on information to patients on nutrition. The main objective of this task force is to develop comprehensive lay person summaries of recognised guidelines in the sphere of nutrition, following the request of the patient community, together with interested EPF members and EU patient groups, in cooperation with learned societies and other stakeholders. The lay person summaries of recognised guidelines will be presented at the September 2018 Conference for Optimal Nutritional Care for All (ONCA).”

Previous work

Back in 2013, EPF, the European Nutrition for Health Alliance’s (ENHA) and the Network for Medical Research and Health (EGAN) co-drafted the first patient agenda on nutrition in the publication ‘Patient Perspectives on Nutrition’. This document highlights that nutrition is a vital part of health and can work both preventatively but also as an enabler for disease management. Unfortunately, nutrition is not an integral part of the disease management process yet, and many patients with chronic diseases face practical problems because of the incompatibility of nutritional needs with their disease or condition.

The same consortium of organisations held the “EU Patient Group Conference on Nutrition”, earlier this year (29 June 2017) in Brussels. The conference explored the current works of various patient organisations in the field of nutrition in relation to prevention, treatment and management of disease, and discuss potential future steps. A number of EU Patient Groups reported on their main concerns, challenges and solutions for nutritional issues within their communities. They called for more information to patients and citizens when it comes to the allergens and nutrients food contains as well as for information regarding the interaction of nutrition with the disease. This can be achieved by regulatory requirements that need to be stricter or by taking patients’ perspectives into account and further research on specific topics; very often disease specific information on nutrition is missing. Lastly, an issue highlighted by many participants was the lack of reimbursement for patients that need to rely on certain foods because of their disease.

Many of the speakers had experience with medical nutrition or used nutrition to manage their disease. The debate was followed by an open discussion in order to come up with recommendations and future actions, epitomised by EPF President Marco Greco: ‘We need to design a comprehensive therapeutic plan that is really tailor made, not only from the medical nutritional point of view but appropriate enough to give the patient a concrete chance of getting back his / her life’.

Please find the report of the conference here.

Any questions? Interested in taking part in the EPF work on nutrition. Please contact policy@eu-patient.eu.