Is Lifestyle Medicine a Speciality?


This is a question that I have been asked many times. Doctors especially are interested as to whether Lifestyle medicine is in fact a recognised speciality in its own right – and, if so, how to become accredited in it.


I am also often asked what Lifestyle Medicine actually is:


Is it simply health promotion and prevention? Can it be used to treat existing illness? Isn’t it just lifestyle advice, which we all do anyway?


So what’s the answer? Should Lifestyle Medicine be part of how we practice?



Should Lifestyle Medicine be part of how we practice?


There is increasing evidence that targeted lifestyle interventions can not only prevent chronic disease, but also treat and reverse chronic illness. Just one example of a lifestyle intervention study is the SMILES trial, which looked at a nutritional intervention for depression.


Being able to bring lifestyle interventions into the consultation with your patients requires knowledge of the evidence, and being able to support the patient to make behaviour change. Detailed knowledge of the evidence on the impact to health for lifestyle interventions is not covered in medical curricula. Neither is behavioural change, which is crucial to support and empower patients.


The science of stress, sleep, human connection, sense of purpose, nutrition, movement and reduction of toxins is not covered in detail either. These are the key pillars of Lifestyle Medicine – and it is disruption in one or more of these pillars which can often be the driver of chronic ill health.


This is why Lifestyle Medicine should be a speciality in its own right, if we are really serious about the NHS Long Term Plan and reducing the burden of chronic ill health.

This is why Lifestyle Medicine should be a speciality in its own right, if we are really serious about the NHS Long Term Plan and reducing the burden of chronic ill health.


GPs in particular are gravitating towards this idea, I think because we are seeing rising multiple chronic diseases in our patients on a daily basis. However, the way our medical consulting model is designed – with 10 minute appointments – is not conducive to practising with a more holistic approach. We really need a shift in how we deliver services, so we are able to practice in a way that will empower our patients and help us help them to de-medicalise illness.



Is Lifestyle Medicine a medical speciality?


Lifestyle Medicine it is not currently a recognised speciality in the UK, in terms of having an accreditation pathway. But should it be a speciality in its own right? Or should it be integrated into everyday conventional medicine?


I also practice as a GP with an extended role in dermatology, and we have recently had a clear accreditation pathway put in place jointly by the Royal College of GPs and the British Association of Dermatologists. This is the kind of development I would like to see occur in Lifestyle Medicine.


This article published in the BMJ 2018 discusses this question at greater length.



How to demonstrate competency in Lifestyle Medicine


How are medical professionals demonstrating their commitment and competency in Lifestyle Medicine? As there is no set route, clinicians are taking a variety of activities to learn, develop and demonstrate competency in this area.


This includes:

  • Taking CPD certified Lifestyle Medicine courses

  • Attending CPD educational events

  • Becoming a member of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine and getting their diploma

  • Auditing their own practice; for example, setting up the group consultation model and writing up the outcomes for others to learn from

  • Doing a Health Coaching qualification


The future of Lifestyle Medicine in the UK


I believe Lifestyle Medicine is much more than health promotion and prevention. This is what we need to tackle the current chronic disease crisis.


This is what we need to tackle the current chronic disease crisis.

Lifestyle Medicine should be integrated into all clinician training, undergraduate and post graduate. It should have a clear accreditation pathway for those who wish to demonstrate competency with Lifestyle Medicine as an extended role. Recognising the power of Lifestyle Medicine can transform population health, and improve the health and wellbeing of both the patient and the clinician.



By Dr Angela Goyal

Founder of Inspired Medics

GP with extended role in Dermatology and Clinical Lead. Interest in Lifestyle Medicine.


 

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