Eating Locally & the Food as Medicine Movement

Hilary McClaffertyAccording to Hilary McClafferty, M.D., F.A.A.P., co-director of fellowships at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, eating locally grown foods is a habit that more people should make part of their daily lives. Indeed, eating local isn’t a fleeting trend but a conscious return to the way in which humans have consumed food for thousands of years. The movement – which some say has its roots in the agricultural price supports and farm subsidies of the New Deal – has been a decades-long effort to improve local economies, develop more self-reliant food networks, and generate a greater appreciation for healthful food consumption practices.

What does “local” mean? Though there is no single authoritative definition, eating locally is perhaps best described as an arrangement in which producers sell food directly to consumers through regional farmers markets, farm-to-school lunch programs, and similar set ups that eliminate long-distance transportation and retail intermediaries. “There is growing interest in the benefits of eating locally in the pediatric population as well. We are seeing interest in schools and community centers to develop and implement school gardens, farm-to-school cafeteria programs, and even community gardens within children’s hospitals where the children have a chance to get involved and help grow their own food. The children really take ownership of the projects and learn about healthy nutrition along the way,” says McClafferty.

The primary benefit of eating locally grown foods is that it gives your body the nutrients it needs and limits the substances that can be harmful to you in high quantities, such as refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, and synthetic trans fats, just to name a few. A growing body of research strongly suggests that, by choosing to eat local, you can avoid or reverse a variety of maladies that can both shorten your lifespan and diminish your quality of living, such as diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, and even many different types of cancers. “Food as medicine” is a term now commonly used to describe an emerging recognition among health professionals – and integrative medicine practitioners, in particular – that food plays not just a supplemental but a central role in the health of people the world over. Physicians have looked at the data and the results are unmistakably clear: a diet that consists primarily of highly processed foods can drastically increase one’s chances of prematurely contracting one or more adverse health conditions. “Learning about nutrition is a fundamental part of our fellowship program. We have physicians, physicians assistants, and advanced practice nurses come in from all over the U.S. and from many other countries, and almost to a person tell us that they had received minimal nutrition training in their professional programs. We make it a point to provide a really robust foundation early on in our training that they build on throughout the two-year training”, says McClafferty. According to a report from the World Health Organization, the vast majority of deaths attributed to heart disease and stroke were ultimately caused by high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and insufficient consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Integrative medicine is a widely accepted approach to care that takes into account the whole person – including his or her dietary habits. In addition to treating illnesses and injuries, practitioners of integrative medicine also place significant emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention through science-based interventions and a strong patient-practitioner relationship.

The American Board of Integrative Medicine® (ABOIM®) is a Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS), the official multi-specialty board certifying body of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc. (AAPS). The ABOIM® offers a path to certification that makes it possible for qualified physicians to present themselves as experts in integrative care. Eligibility requirements, as well as examination and application information, can be found here.

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On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
Internal Medicine
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine
When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine