Associate Professor John Stevens, Carrie Thomson-Casey and Associate Professor Matthew Leach explain the concepts behind this emerging health speciality and the benefits of studying Lifestyle Medicine at Southern Cross University.
About 70 to 80 of all visits to clinicians at the moment are about lifestyle related chronic illness. We have 1.8 million people with type 2 diabetes largely caused through bad nutrition, inactivity, lack of sleep, high stress levels. Lifestyle medicine acts on all these things so the World Health Organization is really clear that lifestyle related illness chronic diseases are going to bankrupt health systems unless there's a paradigm shift, and lifestyle medicine is seen as that paradigm shift. And it's one we've needed for such a long time because health systems around the world and health practice around the world is so focused on curing illness, treating illness, whereas in fact we know that the real need is in preventing illness and managing chronic disease.
So what we're seeing with those practitioners who do lifestyle medicine and take up lifestyle medicine as an adjunct to their current practice is increased outcomes for patients, increase incomes for the clinician.
The lifestyle medicine philosophy incorporates a whole range of determinants - not causes - but determinants of ill health, and they range from things like the way we eat, nutrition we take in, physical activity, sleep, stress, relationships, communication.
As a clinician what I love about this lifestyle medicine course is that it provides really concrete skills that I can use to connect with clients, particularly around prevention. A lot of the time we're aware of the tools that are required when there's significant illness or chronic illness, but in the lifestyle medicine course we're also looking at those tools that assess wellness and how we can help clients achieve the health outcomes or help them to prevent progressing to more significant health issues.
I find that this course really goes that bit deeper and helps clinician get a really strong hold on how to communicate directly with their clients’ experience. What's really special about the lifestyle medicine course is that it's not only really suited to a broad range of health professionals, we've got a broad range of health professionals contributing to the course content.
So when we worked on the curriculum development we consulted with psychologists, general medicine, nursing, naturopaths, nutritionists, there really was a big team and a broad range of health experts coming together to formulate content that's really applicable to health professionals every single day in their practice to bring these strategies and approaches to their clients.
I'm really excited about the curriculum we put together, the volume of content, the depth of content, but also Southern Cross are actually leaders in online learning.
The evidence is quite clear that students who actually undertake study at Southern Cross actually have a wonderful student experience. What I love about Southern Cross University is that they were the initiators of lifestyle medicine in Australia, this is the birthplace of lifestyle medicine, education, and research, and the movement.
A large percentage of chronic disease risk can be attributed to lifestyle behaviours. However, assisting individuals to modify their lifestyle remains an ongoing challenge for many health practitioners.
The Master of Lifestyle Medicine is designed for health practitioners working in general medicine, allied health, nursing or other health disciplines who wish to develop skills and knowledge in the specialised field of lifestyle medicine. The course assists practitioners to more confidently prescribe lifestyle interventions and facilitate behaviour change in order to support the prevention and management of chronic disease and to improve patient outcomes.
This course is taught by leaders in the field and uses an evidence-based approach to examine the principles and practices of lifestyle medicine, including determinants of health, clinical processes and models of care, and strategies and interventions for preventing and managing disease. A capstone research project also enables students to investigate an area of interest in depth.
This Master of Lifestyle Medicine joins Southern Cross University’s suite of health degrees that take an interdisciplinary and patient-centred approach to healthcare.