Lifestyle Medicine Specialty
Should there be a Lifestyle Medicine Specialty in the US? It is interesting that some in the UK see the need for such a medical specialty. After all, there is a global epidemic of chronic illnesses which are rooted in lifestyle decisions. No number of pills or procedures can cure loneliness, harmful food, financial stress, etc. US Primary Care Physicians are not trained or paid to address such matters yet these “social determinants of health” are the things that matter in our Modern Lifestyles.
The US “health care” system has lamented poor patient engagement for years. Perhaps it is time to make health care more than chronic disease management.
Lifestyle medicine’s adherents talk enthusiastically of fixing the broken medical model and saving the NHS. Does the launch of a new diploma and its introduction to the curriculum at medical schools such as Cambridge University signal its emergence as a standalone specialty—and what might its impact be?“
Not just nutrition
”The Lifestyle Medicine Global Alliance, which lists 16 regional members from around the world and runs online training,1 defines lifestyle medicine as “an evidence based medical specialty” that uses “lifestyle therapeutic approaches” to prevent, treat, or modify non-communicable chronic disease—the disease area that accounts for 71% of deaths worldwide.
These approaches include “a predominantly whole food, plant based diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substance use, and other non-drug modalities.”
“Lifestyle medicine is not complementary or alternative—it’s mainstream,” says Rob Lawson, a retired NHS GP from East Lothian now working privately, who is chair of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine (BSLM), founded in 2016. He says people need to realise it’s not just about nutrition. “You’ve got to get to the people who need it most. They’re not going to switch fish and chips for avocado and chia seeds,” he says. Helping people find a purpose in life and beat isolation can tackle the “upstream causes” of disease, he says.
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