Lifestyle Medicine: Going Beyond Wellness to Embrace a New Prescription for Health
The term “medicine” calls to mind pills, injections, and visits to the pharmacist. But what if the most effective treatments aren’t typically written on a prescription pad?
Lifestyle medicine is an approach to health and healthcare that has gotten tons of press recently. But unlike some health trends, it has a lot of science behind it – which has health-conscious companies paying attention.
What is lifestyle medicine
Simply put, lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach to preventing, treating and even reversing diseases by replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive ones, such as:
- Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet
- Getting regular physical activity
- Managing stress
- Avoiding risky substances
- Getting restorative sleep
- Maintaining positive social connection
As the name implies, lifestyle medicine leverages these six “pillars” of lifestyle change to address common, chronic diseases related to unhealthy behaviors, including diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, among others.
It may be easy to picture these pillars applying to primary care scenarios; for example, a provider might recommend cutting out alcohol use in response to a member’s reoccurring acid reflux. But lifestyle medicine can go beyond the exam room and be woven into many other types of care, too. Night shift workers at a manufacturing plant may work with an occupational health nurse to make sure they’re getting enough sleep to avoid OSHA recordable workplace injuries, or a member looking to manage their diabetes may work with a care manager to improve their diet. It’s all part of a whole-person approach to help people feel their best.
Is lifestyle medicine the same thing as a wellness program?
Lifestyle medicine programs and employee wellness programs share similarities in that they both use scientific evidence to help people make lifestyle changes to improve their health.
However, lifestyle medicine is a medical specialty that uses therapeutic lifestyle interventions as a primary modality to treat chronic conditions, as promoted by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine in collaboration with the American College of Preventive Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine. Other organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, have also incorporated lifestyle medicine into their health and wellness approaches.
Wellness programs offer guidance for members to navigate the pillars of lifestyle medicine and dig in to address specific concerns personalized to the member, including things like hydration and life satisfaction.
How common is lifestyle medicine?
While more providers and patients are embracing lifestyle medicine to treat certain preventable chronic diseases, it’s still not very common. Most physicians simply aren’t trained to educate their patients about lifestyle changes, even though the small choices people make every day impact their health dramatically. People are much more aware of how their lifestyles impact their health today than in the past, but there’s still a long way to go before everyone has access to a provider who practices lifestyle medicine.
At Premise Health, we see lifestyle medicine as central to our delivery of healthcare. We have more medical professionals who are formally trained and certified in lifestyle medicine than any other single healthcare provider, and we collaborate with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine to make training in its core competencies available to all our providers. In addition, all of our providers receive mandatory behavior change training to facilitate impactful conversations with our members. By training our providers in the lifestyle medicine approach, Premise is committing to bring this approach to our members nationwide.
What can companies do to encourage healthier workplaces and lifestyles?
Some innovative organizations have embraced lifestyle medicine to help their people stay healthier. At Premise, we’ve worked with clients to offer plant-based cooking classes, personal training, and other lifestyle medicine approaches proven to help people change their habits.
Other organizations have taken smaller, but still important steps to promote health in the workplace, including:
- Stocking vending machines with healthier choices
- Choosing plant based proteins and vegetables for catered meetings, instead of standards like donuts and wraps
- Inviting local fitness instructors to hold classes onsite
- Sponsoring employees in local team sports, like soccer or softball
The average person will spend up to one-third of their lives at work, which means that companies who prioritize positive lifestyle change for their employees can have a big impact on their overall health and wellness.
Is lifestyle medicine the future?
Medication and surgical therapies will always be an important part of healthcare. But we think that lifestyle is the future of prevention and treatment for many chronic, preventable diseases.
The executive director of the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine, Stephan Herzog, said it best:
“Gone are the days of diagnosing the ill, prescribing the pill, and sending the bill, which has worked so well in combating communicable disease. [That approach] is hopelessly inadequate in the fight against chronic disease.”
At Premise, we couldn’t agree more. It’s time to pioneer a new path, and lifestyle medicine is one part of that.
Where Premise Health Fits In
Changing unhealthy behaviors and making better choices is foundational to Premise Health’s approach to medical care, disease prevention, and health promotion. That’s why our lifestyle medicine program focuses on managing nutrition, sleep, stress, physical activity, and relationships, while also helping to reduce use of risky substances. This approach takes healthy living to a whole new level.
With lifestyle medicine services, our clients have a supportive team by their side to guide their employees on a holistic path to better health. Ready to take a new approach to helping your people get, stay, and be well? Get in touch today.