New Direction of Healthcare: Going Beyond Managing Symptoms to Creating Health

Jul 09, 2014 at 04:49 pm by Staff

The ‘Sick Care vs. Creating’ Health Conundrum

You see it, hear it and read it everywhere: the obesity rate is escalating in the United States and is the contributor to the vast majority of health issues we face today including type 2 diabetes, high blood, pressure, high cholesterol levels, acid reflux, sleep apnea, infertility, joint and back pain, certain cancers and more. Patients come to you with, not one or two weight-related health issues, but often times with a cluster of symptoms known as metabolic syndrome. Americans are on more prescription medications than ever before but are not getting healthier.

Obesity is now labeled a disease. One in five Americans die as a result of obesity. Type 2 diabetes, once called “adult-onset” diabetes, is now attacking young children. And, for the first time, it is predicted that this generation of Americans will not live as long as their parents.

While medical and pharmaceutical companies work overtime to treat symptoms caused by excessive weight, the cure will never come from medication or focusing on treating disease. Unless significant changes are made in how we, as individuals, take responsibility for our health combined with a shift from solely managing disease symptoms to going after the underlying causes to create health, it is predicted that 90 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2032.

The good news is that obesity is preventable and an increasing number of physicians are offering or exploring complementary services that focus on dealing with the cause of the symptoms in order to create health for their patients.

A key to better health is maintaining a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle

Most health professionals still do not know how to effectively deal with weight and weight-related health issues. If a physician diagnoses a patient with cancer, that patient is probably going to leave the appointment with a recommendation for an oncologist and an action plan. But if the doctor tells a patient he or she is obese, the patient is most likely to leave without anything more than advice we’ve heard before: eat less and exercise more. But how?

Doctors and lay people alike will need to understand the lifestyle factors that influence our well being. These lifestyle factors work together to harness the power we need to create vibrant health: good sleep, moving the body, healthy eating, reducing inflammation, positive stress management and support. The keys necessary for implementation involve coaching and support, a safe and effective weight loss component and learning those lifestyle factors and behaviors essential for long-term success. “Dieting” and other short-term fixes won’t do it.

As a health and weight loss coach, the majority of my clients have one or more health issues related to his or her weight and are on two or more prescription medications for management of symptoms. Often times, this is the catalyst for change. They seek out a program, not only for weight loss to “look better,” but to eliminate dependence on certain medications and learn how to create longer, healthier lives.

Healthcare professionals are poised to help patients achieve optimal health

The statistics and trends speak for themselves. There is a clear need to focus on weight management and lifestyle programs as a prescription for health and life. Such programs can be complementary to services provided by most health care professionals. Doctors are still the first line of defense for people and, because people have direct access as well as an often established relationship with their doctors, health care professionals are poised to provide people with the resources they need to create and live healthier lives.

How can doctors do this? There are numerous ways. In addition to obtaining family history and other basic patient information, they can help patients identify their current state of health or “non-health” with a comprehensive health assessment incorporating lifestyle-related questions including sleep habits, stress levels, activity levels and eating habits. They should measure patients’ weight and height and calculate their body mass index, or BMI, which indicates whether a person is at a healthy weight (BMI of less than 25), overweight (25 or higher) or obese (30 or higher).

Programs and additional services can be integrated within the practice or physicians can refer out to health coaches and other professionals in the field of wellness who are ready, willing and skilled to help patients.

There has never been a greater need or sense of urgency than now to focus on creating health for Americans.

Beth Dillaha is a COPE Certified Health Coach. She is Certified by Villanova School of Nursing, McDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education. She can be reached at or

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