By Shivaun Conn, Dr Kate Marsh, Dr Flavia Fayet-Moore, and Dr Cameron McDonald (Accredited Practising Dietitians and Board Members of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine)
The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2020, three quarters of all deaths will be the result of chronic diseases1. The top four modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases include tobacco smoking, insufficient physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption and an unhealthy diet2.
As a result, there is a strong rationale for a Lifestyle Medicine approach in primary healthcare, an approach which is also gaining momentum worldwide. It is time for allied health professionals, medical practitioners, researchers and educators to work together more effectively to prevent, manage and treat lifestyle related diseases. Lifestyle Medicine is the answer.
What is Lifestyle Medicine?
Lifestyle Medicine bridges the gap between health promotion and clinical practice with a multidisciplinary, whole system approach to preventing and managing chronic disease. It can be conceptualised as the intersection of medicine, healthcare and health policy with behavioural, social, environmental, socioeconomic, political and other factors that impact on health and wellbeing.
In practice, Lifestyle Medicine involves a range of clinicians and health policy professionals, scientists, researchers and educators working together to empower people to take ownership of their health. We promote being physical active, eating healthily, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, optimising mental health, managing stress, achieving a good quality and quantity of sleep and being socially connected, amongst other factors.
Why is it important for dietitians to know more than nutrition?
There are many lifestyle factors other than nutrition that play an important part in health and wellbeing and therefore support (or undermine) achieving optimal nutrition. By incorporating Lifestyle Medicine into your practice, understanding and addressing these factors to the extent possible, it’s more likely that your clients will achieve their nutritional and lifestyle goals.
Understanding more about the core domains of Lifestyle Medicine empowers us as clinicians to support people more comprehensively but also offers the opportunity for greater enjoyment and job satisfaction as a result of a broader understanding. These domains include health behaviour change, diet and nutrition, physical activity, stress management, emotional wellbeing and resilience, sleep, smoking and alcohol addictions, environmental influences on health, connectedness, the role of meaning/purpose and of course, culture and identity.
Knowledge of Lifestyle Medicine is now essential in many areas of dietetic work such as corporate health, public health, personalised nutrition, health coaching consultations, and working as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
How does being a member of ASLM benefit dietitians?
Lifestyle Medicine is now a worldwide movement with the establishment of more than 15 colleges and societies in Australia, New Zealand, North America, UK, Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East in resent years. Lifestyle Medicine is growing exponentially. According to Dr Dean Ornish, president and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California
“A convergence of forces has made lifestyle medicine the most compelling trend in healthcare3”.
Importantly, membership of ASLM does not compete with your primary registration body or association – given that we don’t act as a registration or representation body at all. Membership of ASLM does not confer any ‘right to practise’ – it simply complements your existing registration and affiliation as a dietitian and indicates that you have a special interest in Lifestyle Medicine.
Where it gets interesting is that ASLM has a flat membership structure, meaning that doctors, dietitians, practice nurses, psychologists, exercise physiologists, etc. can all be full members, can sit on the board, and can pursue Board Certification and Fellowship of the society if desired. You can see an example of this mix of practitioners on the ASLM board page.
Lastly, ASLM has an outwardly focused mission to improve the health of Australians and New Zealanders, as distinct from organisations that exist to represent or serve the needs of their members. So, if you like what we stand for and what we’re doing, we invite you to join the movement for change in healthcare and become a more broadly educated and connected practitioner in the process! This is also likely to result in increased referrals and collaboration with other practitioners.
ASLM provides many opportunities for developing understanding around the core domains of Lifestyle Medicine and for continuing professional development (CPD) through articles, webinars, workshops, online learning, certification, fellowship, and of course our multidisciplinary conference which is growing in popularity.
How can dietitians add to Lifestyle Medicine?
As food and nutrition experts, dietitians play a key role in Lifestyle Medicine. They can also educate other health care professionals on the central role of diet and nutrition in the prevention, management and treatment of lifestyle-related disease. There are currently four dietitians on the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine Board and a rapidly growing number of dietitian members. Be part of the movement, make a difference, and join your fellow dietitians as advocates for Lifestyle Medicine.
We invite you to submit an abstract to our conferences, speak at one of our events, or submit articles for our newsletters or emails. Update us on the latest nutrition science in your field of expertise, and join the growing number of voices promoting a more comprehensive, evidence-based approach to the chronic and lifestyle-related disease epidemic.
Become Lifestyle Medicine member
Dietitian Connection members have the opportunity to join a connected, multi-disciplinary community of inspired professionals with a special introductory offer (saving you $110)!
Get all the benefits of membership, including discounts on workshops and conferences, and demonstrate your alignment with our outwardly focused mission to improve the health of Australians and New Zealanders.
Apply here for 50% off your first year of membership with coupon code dietitianconnection18.