By Thomas Kohout
Residents in the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS)Primary Care program have a new track option available to them starting this fall: lifestyle medicine.
Lifestyle medicine, according to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, is a population-health response to a decades-long rise in the prevalence of chronic conditions and their resulting costs. The medical specialty uses therapeutic lifestyle interventions to address chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
“This is an evidence-based discipline that that looks at changing behavior to not only prevent, but also treat and reverse chronic disease,” said Brad Moore, M.P.H. ’95, an associate professor of medicine at SMHS. “We believe that this is the foundation of internal medicine.
“Certainly,” he continued, “there’s a place for conventional drug therapies and other more aggressive interventions, but patients should know what they can do to optimize their lifestyle as a first step toward health.”
The comprehensive curriculum spans the full residency cycle and features self-directed didactic courses along with a practicum component that enables residents to demonstrate principles of lifestyle medicine in the clinical setting with patients.
To prepare residents for board certification, the elective curriculum will focus on the six pillars of lifestyle medicine: a whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern; physical activity; restorative sleep; stress management; avoidance of risky substances; and positive social connections. It will also guide physicians on how to talk to patients about taking on these changes in their daily lives.
As part of the curriculum, residents will learn how to optimize their own lifestyle, develop the first-person experiences necessary to help their patients understand the link between lifestyle and chronic disease and empower them to optimize their own lifestyle adjustments.
“All doctors,” explained Moore, “graduate from medical school and residency programs understanding that lifestyle is important, but often they haven't been given training to present it to patients in a way that facilitates change.
“This curriculum,” he said, “is designed to provide those details to help patients actually make those changes.”