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Lifestyle Medicine Can Transform Nation's Health Care System

Updated: Jul 25, 2021

By Dr. Padmaja Patel, the medical director of Lifestyle Medicine Center

This movement is led by medical professionals, myself included, who are members of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, a medical professional association. ACLM even more so is a galvanized force for change: physicians and allied health professionals who have awakened to the fact that a pill for every ill is not the ideal answer and that real health care reform is not about determining who will pay for the ever-increasing cost of care. Real health care reform is about using what we know — evidence-based lifestyle medicine — to rein in costs and deliver far superior health outcomes by treating the root causes of chronic disease.

Lifestyle medicine doesn't replace traditional, modern medicine. We need traditional acute care medicine and are thankful for it.

Our nation can reduce demand, improve health and stop the senselessness of ever-increasing prescribing of procedures and medications for symptom management that is draining the pocketbooks of Americans. Seventy percent of all Americans and 90 percent of all seniors take prescription meds; the U.S. spends more on pharmaceuticals than the rest of the world combined.

Lifestyle medicine is quietly becoming the fastest-growing medical specialty here in the U.S. and around the world. We can reverse our chronic disease and the associated cost trends with a lifestyle medicine-first approach to health care.

Hundreds of physicians took the first-ever board certification exam in lifestyle medicine in October 2017, and the next cohort will sit for the exam in just a few weeks. Medical schools, that for the most part, never included more than basic nutrition in their curricula, are beginning to offer lifestyle medicine classes.

The Association of American Medical Colleges recently referred to the lifestyle medicine physician as one of the top five emerging medical careers.

Membership in ACLM is growing rapidly, and attendance at the association's annual national conference is at record levels. ACLM advocates for evidence-based lifestyle medicine to become the foundation of all health care, as it is synonymous with value-based care.

Other like-minded organizations are experiencing similar growth. And respected publications such as The Permanente Journal are taking up the charge, publishing articles on the dramatic impact of lifestyle medicine on health and survival.

In the face of epidemic levels of physician burnout and trends showing physicians leaving the current "sick care" field, lifestyle medicine is the antidote — wherein clinicians find anew their passion and inspiration to become true healers by educating, equipping and empowering their patients to restore health and vitality.

All of us -- including those of us in the medical field -- can all start by adopting healthy lifestyle choices to protect our own health. For those who already have chronic diseases, making specific and significant lifestyle changes has the power to arrest and even reverse these degenerative conditions.

Let them know that you want to be cared for by a real "health" care system, with a lifestyle medicine-first approach — identifying and eradicating root causes as a first treatment option.

ACLM has issued a call for the U.S. health care delivery system to focus health care reform efforts on treating the root cause of chronic disease, thereby reversing the current escalating disease and associated cost trends.

For more information about lifestyle medicine and how to transform health and redefine health care, contact us.

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