From the Health of a Doctor
Editor’s note: This is a story from Dr Emma Campbell, a Newcastle trained General Practitioner, with special interests in women’s health and lifestyle medicine.
Can you imagine all of your wishes coming true at once! A bit unlikely in today’s environment?? Ok… How about imagining one of your wishes coming true without all the blood, sweat and tears that are currently stopping you from achieving that goal?? Still unlikely I know, but sometimes you just get lucky!! Let me tell you how this very thing happened for me!!
I am a Lifestyle Medicine focused GP at Atune Health Centre in Cardiff. For many years now I have been excited to assist people to walk closer and closer towards living the life they would like to be living.
Eating better. Moving more. Stressing less. Connecting more with others. Living according to their values.
This is super rewarding work. I have done this as a GP; as a lifestyle medicine educator providing lectures to community groups, working in live-in health retreats alongside a whole team to support change, and running programs like the Lift Project and the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) both in the community and in my workplace.
Programs like CHIP can be extremely effective and I have witnessed this first hand. They are also a LOT of work and practically impossible for a single practitioner to run on their own while keeping up a fairly full work, and family, life. I had always wanted to run CHIP in my practice but couldn’t see how it could practically be done with just me to make it happen.
Since moving to Atune, I now work at a practice that encourages and supports running programs like this but was still a little unclear about how this would be managed. Luckily, I am friends with Camila Skaf! She doesn’t see limitations like others do. She focuses on opportunities and meeting needs, and like me is passionate about lifestyle as medicine. Together we decided to run a CHIP program on Wednesday evenings on-site for 2 participants who were willing to do it. Within a few weeks, we had a number of others joining us, both new participants, and others who have done the CHIP before and who needed a bit of a refresher. Now we have about 10+ participants each week and the program is going from strength to strength.
For those who do not know about CHIP, there are educational videos to watch online each week at home which teach the basics of lifestyle medicine. There’s a whole food, plant based eating plan (with a dedicated cookbook), and encouragement of activity.
Once these basics are covered there is a focus on other strategies related to neuroscience and positive psychology to help a participant to live their best life. Each week participants sign a consent form to keep all medical information confidential, as personal information and journeys can be kept safe in this environment. There is an opportunity to share lessons learned, set new goals, improve health literacy, experience peer support and accountability, and also (and probably the best bit!) a weekly cooking demonstration and meal. (We are having to be flexible as COVID restrictions are impacting us a little currently but we are weathering the storm!)
Camila and Diana Diaz (an experienced lifestyle medicine nurse and SEEDS volunteer) plan and organise the majority of our food demonstrations. As a GP, this leaves me free to focus on whatever medical concerns have arisen over the last week – sometimes dealing with things in a group setting and otherwise finding some private time briefly after the session as appropriate. At some stage during the evening there is a weigh in and blood pressure check for those keeping an eye on these measures. With these two friends and co-workers I know that if I cannot make it, the show will go on! And if one of them can’t make it we can manage with two of us no problems! It’s not that this general practice-based CHIP program is without effort as a GP. It’s just that the rewards are so great compared to the work put in that it is very sustainable. Working with Camila and Diana is also very fun! I work a 12 hour day on Wednesdays and I always leave feeling great! This program is so empowering; the positivity is infectious, and the outcomes are generally far better, and more consistent than I have seen people achieving on their own. In terms of our current obesogenic diet and lifestyle in Australia, when you are swimming against the tide, it is so helpful to have a cheer squad to help keep you on track!
I love seeing people changing their lives for the better. I love working with SEEDS to help make this happen. This is my dream come true!
I hope that the model we are rolling out will soon be replicated by another couple of doctors in our practice, on different days and at different times so more people can get this opportunity for a complete health and lifestyle transformation. I dream in time, that as we prove that this model is effective and sustainable, that other General Practices around Newcastle and Australia will seek to roll it out; that General Practice will not only be a place to get help when you are sick but a place to get help when you want to be well. That is my big dream… and who knows what will happen? I’ve seen dreams come true before!