Lifestyle Medicine Program Introduced

Evidence-based approach has been shown to prevent, treat, reverse disease

A new medical trend is showing promising results when it comes to preventing and even reversing chronic, debilitating diseases like cancer, diabetes and hypertension that affect Americans at an alarming rate.

No, it’s not a new drug or an improved technology. It’s Lifestyle Medicine and it’s coming soon to a Wright Center for Community Health primary care practice near you.

The Wright Center for Community Health and The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education co-announce the launch of Lifestyle Medicine, one of the fastest growing fields of medicine that focuses on the six pillars of health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, relationships and the avoidance of risky substances. It differs from mainstream medical approaches by emphasizing non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive treatments to prevent, treat and even reverse chronic disease.

“Lifestyle Medicine is an evidence-based, logical and motivational approach to promoting health that has the power to revolutionize health care delivery in America,” said Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, CEO of The Wright Center for Community Health and President of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. “Effective health care reform will require more than determining new payment models for the insurmountable, ever increasing total costs of medical care primarily related to management of acute and chronic diseases, many of which are preventable. Real change in our healthcare industry will require a longview perspective and a care delivery model flip to a significant investment in healthy behaviors and disease prevention.” 

By current estimates, 40% of Americans are affected by chronic diseases and 70% of all American adults are overweight or obese, which increases their risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Nine out of 10 Americans ages 75 and older have at least one chronic illness, and more than 20% suffer from five or more.

This chronic disease burden has placed an enormous strain on the American health care system. It is now estimated that up to 80% of the care provided by primary care physicians involves treatment of diseases that should first be addressed by improving lifestyle choices. The overall cost to the U.S. health care system of unhealthy lifestyles has been estimated at upwards of $3 trillion each year.

“Lifestyle Medicine is about empowering patients to take their wellbeing into their own hands through manageable changes,” explained Robert Naismith, Ph.D., a board member of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. “Life-saving health improvements are within reach, especially when it comes to incorporating a plant-based diet and other positive behaviors recommended by Lifestyle Medicine experts.”

As part of its commitment to responsive and responsible health services, The Wright Center for Community Health will introduce Lifestyle Medicine at all of its nine comprehensive primary care centers throughout Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties. All Wright Center primary care physicians and care teams will incorporate Lifestyle Medicine into their usual practice by introducing motivational support for therapeutic lifestyle interventions for the treatment and prevention of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cancer and more.

Wright Center physicians and providers will complete a thorough patient assessment of current health habits and then introduce and empower individualized treatment plans based on specific risk factors. Treatment plans include but are not limited to improving nutrition – including introducing a predominantly whole-food, plant-based diet – increasing physical activity, managing stress, eliminating tobacco use, and moderating alcohol consumption.

“It’s important to point out that Lifestyle Medicine is not alternative medicine,” Dr. Thomas-Hemak stressed. “It is based on strong evidence of the value of lifestyle interventions in a variety of disease states and does not bring experimental or unproven approaches to the medical care being delivered.”

In addition to incorporating Lifestyle Medicine into patient care, an educational curriculum will be introduced to all physicians in training at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education – including students, residents and fellows  – preparing this next generation of doctors to become eligible for board certification by the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine. 

Dr. Jumee Barooah, Designated Institutional Official for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, says the innovative American College of Lifestyle Medicine curriculum being introduced this fall will play a critical role for future practicing primary care and specialty physicians.

“Residency is where a new physician really puts their education to work, so we think immersing these new doctors in evidence-based Lifestyle Medicine on the frontlines of clinical training is not just vital for existing patients, it’s transformative for the future of our health care delivery system,” Dr. Barooah said. “We really want to provide our physician learners with an innovative education that includes true value-based care by improving health outcomes while lowering costs. Our overall graduate medical education program will be greatly strengthened by this pioneering curriculum.”

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