The Health Professional Connection

by Ann Marie Krautheim

Health professionals are a key information resource for their patients, making them an important ally in providing the facts on milk safety and quality to consumers.
Recent producer-funded consumer research further demonstrates the important role of health professionals, as consumers identified doctors and dietitians as the single most trustworthy source regarding product information.
With this in mind, the National Dairy Council® (NDC) has made it a priority to inform health professionals with scientific research and nutrition information related to all dairy foods — whether choosing conventional, organic, lactose-free or lower-fat products.
Educating health professionals about milk is a top priority due to the heightened public focus on agricultural practices and increased interest in organic foods. And as demand for organic products continues to grow, so does the potential for misconceptions regarding the safety and nutritional value of milk products.
For example, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced foods, more than 80 percent of consumers who purchase organic products do so primarily for its nutritional value, according to Shopping for Health 2005, a report by the Food Marketing Institute and Prevention magazine. Additionally, in a 2005 survey conducted by the NDC, 19 percent of health professionals agree that they should recommend organic milk.
NDC works to educate health professionals that both organic and conventional milk are safe and nutritious ways to help Americans get their recommended three servings of dairy foods a day.
Ongoing efforts position organic milk as one of a variety of choices in the dairy case. NDC works with members of the 3-A-Day™ of Dairy Advisory Panel, which includes representatives from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the National Medical Association (NMA), to develop educational tools, submit articles and continue research initiatives related to milk safety and nutrition. NDC also conducts educational and communication training sessions for leading health professionals.
In addition, NDC and local, state and regional offices submit information about the difference between organic and regular milk.
Communications efforts also provide information about the key nutrients dairy offers. This includes calcium, protein and vitamin D, which were identified as key nutrients of concern in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The DGA also recognized that people who consume more dairy foods have better overall diets, consume more nutrients and see improved bone health.
With Americans today consuming roughly half of the government recommendations, organic and conventional dairy products offer another option to achieve three servings a day.
For additional information on the health benefits of dairy foods, visit www.nationaldairycouncil.org
Ann Marie Krautheim, M.A., R.D., is senior vice president of nutrition affairs for the National Dairy Council.