Photo: American College of Lifestyle Medicine
The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) commitment to donate $24.1 million in in-kind educational coursework in nutrition and food as medicine to physicians and other medical professionals nationwide was highlighted by The Biden-Harris Administration Wednesday at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.
The commitment includes $22 million providing for 5.5 complimentary hours of continuing medical education (CME) credits in nutrition and lifestyle medicine to 100,000 physicians and other medical professionals. Clinicians who are treating patients in areas with a high prevalence of diet-related disease are invited to register at no charge for the Lifestyle Medicine and Food as Medicine Essentials online course at lifestylemedicine.org/WHConference.
Additionally, ACLM, in partnership with the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine, has made an additional $2.1 million matching fund commitment to cover half the cost of training and certification in lifestyle medicine for one primary care provider at each of the roughly 1,400 U.S. Federally Qualified Health Centers across the U.S. to expand access to lifestyle medicine, including food and physical activity as medicine, in under-resourced communities.
ACLM’s commitment supports the national strategy unveiled Tuesday by the Biden-Harris Administration to “end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 so fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases— while reducing related health disparities.” The strategy was announced one day before the conference designed to catalyze the public and private sectors around a coordinated effort to drive transformative change in the U.S. to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, and reduce the disparities surrounding them. The last such event was held in 1969 and resulted in the creation of momentous programs like school lunches, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and changes to how food is labeled.
“The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health has the potential to be a momentous turning point for how we, as a nation, respond to the growing crisis of lifestyle-related chronic disease in the United States,” said ACLM President Cate Collings, MD, FACC, MS, DipABLM, a cardiologist and invited conference attendee. “It is clear that simply managing the symptoms of chronic disease with ever-increasing quantities of expensive medications and procedures without addressing the root causes of those diseases is a failure of our health care system. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine is proud to make this significant commitment to help educate, equip and empower practicing clinicians to effectively prescribe evidence-based lifestyle medicine interventions in nutrition and help alter the trajectory of chronic disease.”
While genetics can predispose people to certain diseases, lifestyle and environment play major roles in disease occurrence. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented, primarily with improvements to diet and lifestyle. Hunger and diet-related diseases affect many communities, including rural areas, people with disabilities, older adults, LGBTQI+ people, military families and military veterans. The U.S. incurs $1.1 trillion annually in food-related human costs, including $604 billion attributable to diet-related diseases like hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to the Rockefeller Foundation.
Science demonstrates that lifestyle medicine is an effective means to treat and even reverse many diseases such as obesity, diabetes, or heart disease, while also providing strong preventive qualities. However, while lifestyle medicine, including nutrition, is increasingly being integrated into medical school and residency program education and training, few practicing physicians have received adequate education in nutrition or physical activity. ACLM, the only organization that educates, equips, and supports certification of physicians and other clinicians in lifestyle medicine, offers a comprehensive catalogue of educational resources.
“The majority of physicians who are currently practicing have likely received little or no education in clinical nutrition and physical activity,” said Brenda Rea, MD, DrPH, PT, RD, DipABLM, Lifestyle Medicine Intensivist, FACLM, Co-Chair of the ACLM Education Committee and Faculty Member in Family Medicine Residency at Loma Linda University Health Education Consortium. “The continuing medical education courses ACLM is making available to 100,000 physicians and other medical professionals is a major step in helping those providers develop the strong foundation they need to integrate lifestyle medicine into their practices and to partner with their patients to assist them in achieving their health goals.”
Lifestyle medicine is a growing medical specialty that uses therapeutic lifestyle interventions as a primary modality to treat chronic conditions including, but not limited to, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Lifestyle medicine certified clinicians are trained to apply evidence-based, whole-person, prescriptive lifestyle change to treat and, when used intensively, often reverse such conditions. Applying 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—also provides effective prevention for these conditions.
Dean Ornish, MD, Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute,
Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and a founding member of ACLM, applauded the medical professional society and White House Conference planners for collaborating to promote this unique learning opportunity to physicians and other medical professionals.
“We face an epidemic of lifestyle- and food-related chronic disease in our country. Our medical professionals must become trained—and, ideally, certified—in the field of lifestyle medicine to effectively treat root causes of disease,” Dr. Ornish said. “This commitment will serve as a spark to ignite the transformation we so desperately need in our nation’s healthcare system, as we strive to address the lifestyle-related chronic disease health disparities that have taken too great a toll. I encourage my physician colleagues across this nation to take advantage of this CME opportunity made possible by ACLM, while also urging other key members of their clinical practice teams to do the same. This is our moment to be the change we want to see in our nation’s healthcare system—for the benefit of both patients and providers.”
In November, U.S. Rep. James McGovern introduced House Resolution 784, a resolution that passed the U.S. House of Representatives and supports activities that ensure that health professional training programs incorporate substantive training in nutrition and diet.
“There’s a serious gap in teaching our medical professionals about the power of food and nutrition in health care. It hurts patients who would benefit from holistic treatments or prevention plans and is something we can no longer ignore,” said Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern. “In line with the resolution I introduced with Dr. Burgess that passed the House earlier this year, the funding announced by ACLM to educate medical providers about the value of food and nutrition will strengthen the health and wellbeing of Americans across the country. I applaud ACLM’s commitment to this issue and hope it continues to be a critical part of the conversations taking place at the historic White House Conference this week.”
“Being a physician and lead co-sponsor of Resolution 784, I am keenly aware of the importance of nutrition in medical education,” U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD, said. “This is so critically needed and I support the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s work to change this across the spectrum of medical education. Their commitment to training physicians especially in our under-resourced areas is commendable.”
“Ensuring our health care professionals have access to critical information that helped save my life is game changing,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Lifestyle medicine is personal to me, and together—armed with the right tools—we can make sure all New Yorkers have access to the healthy lifestyle they deserve.”