Written by Cate Collings, MD, DipABLM, FACLM As originally published on Medscape.com
Personal testimonies are powerful but research is beginning to back it up. Results of a recent survey published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that the more lifestyle medicine that practitioners were able to incorporate into their medical practices, the less likely they were to experience burnout. The results "suggested that increased feelings of accomplishment due to improved patient outcomes and reduced depersonalization contribute to reduced burnout."
Other leaders in the lifestyle medicine community, like Liana Lianov, MD, MPH, approach physician well-being through the field of positive psychology and the emerging field of positive health. She is the founder of the Global Positive Health Institute , where the science of positive psychology and healthy lifestyles is applied by primary care and other specialists, including lifestyle medicine practitioners, across a spectrum of care delivery settings. ACLM has a member interest group and a special committee focused on happiness science and positive psychology.
Lianov, who was also lead faculty on ACLM's " Physician & Health Professional Well-being " 5-hour CME/CNE/CPE/CE- accredited course, makes the point that while quality self-care is not consistently delineated in the health professional well-being literature, the lifestyle medicine community refers to a defined set of healthy lifestyle interventions. The types and intensity of interventions should be personalized because they depend on the clinician's circumstances, environment, background, prior experiences, culture, and personality. Well-being strategies that combine interventions based in the science of lifestyle medicine and positive health support growth and thriving in the face of — or sometimes even as a result of — the adversities we face. As Lianov puts it, "Clinician well-being is a journey, not a destination."
To be sure, a lifestyle medicine–focused commitment to self-care does not resolve the system-level obstacles we face. It can, however, transform how we respond and cope with those frustrations, help us find deeper meaning in our work, and better shine our positive healing powers onto the patients we serve. ACLM's annual conference in October has a virtual attendance option that is an excellent opportunity for unfamiliar clinicians to dip a toe in the water and find out whether lifestyle medicine appeals to them. A post-conference virtual workshop will be offered on physician and health professional well-being and how you can lead workshops on this topic in your healthcare settings. Participating in these events could very well be the first step to rediscovering the joy and purpose too often missing from our profession.
Written by ACLM Member Dawn Woods, PharmD, DipACLM as featured on PharmacyTimes.com Image credit: M-studio -stock.adobe.com
Pharmaceuticals are a critical and often lifesaving tool for managing disease, but we will never solve our chronic disease crisis through a mindset of mere management.
Ask the average person what the purpose of a pharmacist is and they’ll probably say to give them medications with instructions to take them safely. True, that’s an important part of our job. But as pharmacists, we know that we are much more than drug experts; we’re health professionals who are highly knowledgeable in the screening, prevention, and treatment of chronic diseases.
That knowledge—and the fact that the pharmacy is among the most accessible forms of health care for many Americans—positions us for a bigger role in reducing the crisis of chronic disease in the United States. Six in 10 adults have been diagnosed with at least 1 chronic disease and 4 in 10 with at least 2. The costs of this tragedy, both in human suffering and dollars spent on health care, are enormous.
Pharmaceuticals are a critical and often lifesaving tool for managing disease, but we will never solve our chronic disease crisis through a mindset of mere management—prescribing increasing quantities of medications alone. To finally begin to provide “health care” instead of “sick care,” we must also address the root causes of these diseases to restore health. And the root causes of the vast majority of chronic disease are lifestyle-related.
That’s why I encourage pharmacists to explore lifestyle medicine, a growing, evidence-based medical specialty that uses therapeutic lifestyle interventions as a primary modality to treat chronic conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Applying the 6 pillars of lifestyle medicine—optimal nutrition, physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances, and positive social connections—also provides effective prevention for these conditions.
My interest in lifestyle medicine grew from my own experience. I struggled with poor health my entire life and, by the time my second child was born, was tired of feeling exhausted and unwell. Committing to healthy lifestyle behaviors, I reduced my cholesterol by 60 points, improved my blood pressure to 110/70, and lost 40 lbs. I felt more energized, alert, and empowered than ever before. My passion became helping others address the underlying, lifestyle-related cause of their diseases so they, too, can live full and healthy lives.
I became certified to practice lifestyle medicine by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) and accredited as a certified health and wellness life coach. I began incorporating conversations, when appropriate, into patient consultations at the pharmacy where I work in Birmingham, Ala. More often than not, I’m communicating health information that the patient has never heard and is grateful to receive.
Patients on medications for type 2 diabetes are among the most engaged. Often, their physicians have told them to “eat better” but not what that means, much less how to achieve it sustainably. I talk to patients about the growing evidence supporting a predominately plant-based eating pattern to achieve remission, suggest books, and provide them resources from ACLM, such as shopping guides and recipes to make easy meals. Some I direct to lifestylemedpros.org , ACLM’s directory of lifestyle medicine-certified clinicians, to find help nearby.
Lifestyle change is not the best path for everyone and social determinants cause unique challenges that must be acknowledged. But many patients are surprised to learn that it may be possible to achieve remission in their diabetes by adhering to a whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern .
For those spending between $300 and $400 a month for insulin, the idea of treating their disease through diet is intriguing. For some, our conversations are a springboard to engage their primary care physicians in deeper conversations about lifestyle. Patients who commit to making significant lifestyle behavior changes sometimes call the pharmacy to find out when I am working so they can discuss their progress with me or ask questions.
To be sure, such consultations are not always possible. Pharmacists can face the same overwhelming patient volume as physicians and just keeping up the demand of prescriptions to fill is sometimes the best we can do.
My hope is that health care leaders and employers will begin to recognize the immense value that pharmacists can contribute to the effort to reduce chronic disease and structure our roles to amplify our impact. I envision a future in which pharmacists are more deeply embedded into health teams to help patents achieve optimal health or collaborate to deprescribe medication following successful lifestyle medicine interventions.
As a first step, pharmacists and other clinicians can register for 5.5 hours of complimentary CE/CME coursework in nutrition and food as medicine offered by ACLM in support of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health . The free coursework helps establish a foundation of lifestyle medicine knowledge for health professionals.
To truly change the trajectory of chronic disease, we must go beyond managing symptoms and start addressing the root causes. Lifestyle medicine provides us the skills to do exactly that.
In the thriving realm of lifestyle medicine, the role of a health coach is becoming increasingly vital. With an emphasis on preventive health, wellness, and sustainable lifestyle changes, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine is your beacon as you navigate the journey to this fulfilling career.
Understanding the Role of a Health Coach
Health coaches are the empathetic motivators, the knowledgeable guides, and the dedicated supporters of their clients' health journeys. They don't just advise; they co-create the roadmap to wellness with their clients, using evidence-based strategies for lasting lifestyle change. They are pivotal in bridging the gap between medical recommendations and patient behaviors, fostering a culture of health that sticks.
The Scope of Practice
A health coach's scope is clearly defined. They do not diagnose or treat; instead, they provide the support structure for clients to achieve their health goals. Health coaches are experts in behavior change, helping clients to discover their intrinsic motivation, develop self-efficacy, and create sustainable habits for long-term health and wellness.
The foundation of a health coach's expertise is education. Prospective health coaches typically begin with a bachelor's degree in a health-related field, although this is not strictly mandatory. From there, you can choose a certification program accredited by organizations like the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). Such programs cover essential topics like nutrition, exercise science, behavioral psychology, and more. You can see a list of NBHWC approved health & wellness coach training programs here.
Certification: A Must-Have Credential
Becoming a certified health coach is crucial. Certification can take anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on the program's intensity and your pace. For example, the Wellcoaches program, affiliated with the American College of Sports Medicine, is a recognized path that many successful health coaches have taken.
Hands-on experience is as important as formal education. Engage in practicums or internships, volunteer in health promotion activities, or work alongside established health coaches. This real-world experience is invaluable and often required for certification.
Remote Opportunities: A World of Possibilities
The demand for health coaches is on a steady incline, with many opportunities for remote work. Currently, there are hundreds of such positions, reflecting a trend towards telehealth and digital wellness services. This flexibility is a significant draw for professionals in the field, allowing for a career that adapts to your life circumstances and offers a comfortable balance between personal and professional life.
Salary and Benefits in the Remote Realm
Remote health coaching not only offers the usual benefits of working from home, such as saving time on commuting and having a flexible schedule, but it also comes with a competitive salary range. Depending on your level of expertise, certifications, and niche, you can expect to earn between $40,000 and $90,000 per year .
The Investment in Time
The journey to becoming a health coach can take as little as 6 months to a couple of years. This timeframe includes completing educational requirements, gaining experience, and achieving certification. The investment in time pays off in the ability to make a significant impact on the health and happiness of others, as well as in personal and financial rewards.
Why Choose Health Coaching?
Health coaching goes beyond a career; it's a lifestyle and a passion. If you have a fervent interest in health and wellness, love working with people, and are driven by the desire to make a difference, health coaching offers a path that is professionally rewarding and personally fulfilling.
Take Your First Step with the ACLM
The American College of Lifestyle Medicine provides resources, training, and support for those embarking on this journey. Explore our courses, connect with our community, and let us guide you to where your passion for health can flourish into a vibrant career.
You can see the list of health coach related resources here.
In health coaching, you are not just choosing a job; you are embracing a mission to empower, educate, and enrich lives. Let the journey begin!
View the latest health coach jobs