How Do We Reduce the Burden of Lifestyle Related Diseases?

Rob Lawson Posted by Rob Lawson on 16 May 2018 / Comments

This is a question I have been putting to delegates at meetings around the UK at which I have had the honour of presenting on behalf of our BSLM.

The numbers contributing are small but nonetheless the outcomes strike me as being representative of the views I have heard from many more meetings where my attempt to pose this question, and seek answers, was not formalised. Given that Lifestyle Medicine straddles (bridges) the gap between conventional medicine and public health it is especially relevant to compare notes as in the chart below.

GPs and Clinicians

Q1: What changes are you prepared to make in your own lifestyle (personally)
  1. Exercise more/better (89%)
  2. Eat better/less (84%)
  3. Improve sleep habit (36%)
  4. Mental Health, reduce stress (11%)
Q2: What are the solutions at community, national or global level
  1. Fund Lifestyle Medicine initiatives (62%) - Health coaches, support community assets/groups, adopt multi-disciplinary teamwork
  2. Support public education (56%) - Healthy eating in schools and at work, Initiatives to reduce obesity
  3. Fruit in coffee shops (5%)

Public Health Consultants

Q1: What changes are you prepared to make in your own lifestyle (personally)
  1. Exercise more (100%)
  2. Eat better/less (93%)
  3. Improve mental health (44%)
  4. Improve sleep habit (33%)
Q2:What are the solutions at community, national or global level
  1. Promote mental health wellbeing (15%)
  2. Improve transport policy (11%)
  3. Reduce processed foods (11%)
  4. Incentivise healthier lifestyle options (7%)
Other suggestions:
  • Better use of big data
  • Increase social prescribing
  • Increased health education in schools
  • NHS should promote health
  • Introduce MUP for alcohol
  • Increase health in the workplace
  • Universal income
  • Limit numbers of fast food outlets
  • Increase sugar tax
  • Reduce social media use
  • Better wealth taxation
As individuals (‘who’ we are) there is a lot of agreement on the major issues in our lives which we should like to change.  However, differences emerge relevant to the ‘what’ we are and the perspective that brings with it.  Clinicians bring greater unanimity but less of a scatter of solutions compared with Public Health colleagues. Not surprising perhaps but as a Society, with disparate members, we need to be coalescing around common aims.

At this stage of our development, with 350 members across many disciplines it is worth looking at our ‘raison d’ètre’ by looking again at our mission statement as found on our web page and to which our members have ‘signed up’.   What you will not have seen are the purposes of our Organisation as laid out in our Constitution and reproduced below.

Mission statement

‘BSLM is a multidisciplinary society aiming to prevent, improve, manage and treat lifestyle-related conditions. BSLM aims to establish Lifestyle Medicine as central to health and wellbeing by promoting the prevention of avoidable lifestyle-related diseases, by advocating treatment of diseases of the 21st century with a realistic approach and by influencing healthcare and health policy. Raising awareness of Lifestyle Medicine principles and providing leadership, education and support for healthcare practitioners is a primary objective. We acknowledge there are social and environmental determinants of disease which should be addressed at national and international level. BSLM wishes to play its part. We are delighted to be part of the global movement of Lifestyle Medicine.’


‘The organisation’s purposes are:

The BSLM promotes education and research into the field of Lifestyle Medicine by providing support and a networking platform for doctors, associated health professionals and others by:

  • Collecting and sharing research and case studies
  • Providing online discussion forums on lifestyle medicine related matters
  • Publishing regular newsletters for exchange of ideas and information
  • Providing educational and networking opportunities
The BSLM promotes public awareness of Lifestyle Medicine and to educate the public by:
  • Providing a list of practitioners working in the field who accept referrals
  • Disseminating relevant scientific and educational information in easily understandable language to enable persons to take informed lifestyle choices
  • Facilitating educational meetings and gatherings.
  • Promoting the adoption of healthy lifestyles by all sections of the population for their general wellbeing and prevention of illness’.
We are some way from being able to deliver on all of this and it will be the responsibility of all our members to contribute in ways no matter how small to honour our Society’s commitment; a Society which at its heart is composed of members with the greater good in clear sight.

Our volunteer Directors are in place around the UK to facilitate and support a networking platform. They are in place to promote public awareness.  Let us all get behind them and ensure the mission and purposes of BSLM make the difference we all know is desperately needed for ourselves, our communities and our Country. Please use the communication pathways available to you, please support our BSLM meetings, please attend our annual conference and please feel pride at belonging to an Organisation with such energetic and forward-thinking healthcare practitioners.

So how do we reduce the burden of Lifestyle Related Diseases? All of the ideas above are excellent choices and you will have your thoughts – please share them.

These are my own thoughts, based on a working- lifetime at the front line, mainly fighting fires when the obvious thing to be doing was to stop them being lit in the first place.

  1. Be a personal example, a role model for those around you. To your family, friends and patients.
  2. Facilitate and influence community engagement in healthy lifestyles and activities. A biopsychosocial approach is not misplaced in this process.
  3. Ensure that those in a position of authority, whether that be in government, business or academe, reframe their strategic thinking towards health creation in all its facets.   Creating an environment from cell to community to planet which allows all of our citizens to make healthy choices easily and affordably.
Not too much to ask for is it?