Over the past two decades, with greater attention placed on treating the "whole person," the field of Lifestyle Medicine (LM) has been growing by leaps and bounds.
Boosted by a growing body of scientific evidence, it's been demonstrated that lifestyle intervention is an essential component in the treatment of chronic disease that can be as effective as medication, but without the risks and unwanted side-effects.
As a clinical discipline, LM applies evidence-based lifestyle interventions to treat, manage and prevent lifestyle-related diseases. It empowers individuals with the knowledge and life skills to make effective behavior changes that address the underlying causes of disease.
LM is becoming the preferred modality for not only the prevention but also the treatment of many chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. LM incorporates many public health approaches (e.g., health education and promotion), but the heart of practicing LM takes place in the clinical setting.
Formed in 2004, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is the first national professional society for clinicians specializing in the use of lifestyle interventions in the treatment and management of disease. ACLM's members are clinicians engaged in clinical practice, teaching and/or research.
The ACLM's current president is Dr. David L. Katz, founding director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center. Katz is internationally known for expertise in nutrition, weight management, and chronic disease prevention, as well as integrative care and patient-centered care models. Katz views lifestyle medicine as "an utterly transformable force" on the healthcare landscape.
Katz sees two inroads to this transformation: Lifestyle in medicine, and lifestyle as medicine. The latter, lifestyle as medicine, takes place "at the level of our culture" where the powerful knowledge we have about the role of lifestyle in preventing disease must be put to use in practice in order to enhance quality of life and "advance the human condition."
Lifestyle in medicine involves "adept, constructive, compassionate clinical counseling and effective programs." To this end, the ACLM is devoting resources and working closely with the American College of Preventive Medicine, American Medical Association, the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine and other medical and wellness organizations to develop core competencies and comprehensive training programs.
These programs range from certificate programs to educational opportunities at the undergraduate, graduate and medical post-graduate levels. Topics and programs can include medical nutrition, health behavior and behavior change, preventive care and clinical psychology, community-oriented primary care, lifestyle intervention, and opportunities for residency in preventive medicine and other clinical areas relevant to LM.