Culinary Health

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Radford University Carilion have combined their ongoing unique opportunity in interprofessionalism with the growing field of Culinary Health education.

Our goals are four-fold:

  • To deliver the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) competencies through a valued and meaningful teamwork experience
  • To deliver the basic concepts of nutrition for patients
  • To appreciate the value of a nutritionist to a healthcare team
  • To understand the difficulties inherent in telling patients to eat and cook healthy, especially with scarce resources and with certain health populations

Over the last few years, there has been an explosion in interest in fresh and healthy food concepts. This includes community gardens, markets, restaurants featuring farm to table foods and how health systems can help address “food deserts” in communities and especially with disadvantaged populations. Parallel to this emphasis on healthy communities, there has also been interest in medical and health profession schools expanding their teaching on nutrition and healthy cooking concepts.

So what does culinary health have to do with interprofessional healthcare?

The analogies are many:

  • A commercial kitchen is hectic and often changing in what is being delivered to the consumer. Team members also change frequently, so that you often do not know who you are working with until you show up for your “shift.”
  • Commercial kitchens require a team, with each team member understanding their own role and that of others. Respecting and valuing all roles is critically important to the end product.
  • Communication in a busy commercial kitchen is vital. Most culinary teams will have a “pre- brief” to prepare for what they are planning to do and a “de-brief” afterwards reviewing what went right, what went wrong and how to correct any missteps. There will often be an emergency “huddle”, “call back” and “SBAR: situation, background, assessment and recommendation” during the cooking process to correct problems as they arise.
  • Quality and safety are vital concepts in commercial kitchens. Accidents and errors sometimes occur, and must be handled in a predictable manner that reviews and corrects the problems.
  • Commercial kitchens are often engaged in population health. They frequently must design meals for certain populations, health needs, or health desires.
  • Commercial kitchens exist to deliver a product that is high in quality, meeting the needs of the consumer, and to improve their individual quality of life. These meals must be delivered in a “customer friendly” manner producing high levels of outcomes and satisfaction from the customer.