Thoughts on Self Care Week
Lifestyle Medicine and self care are natural bedfellows

Rob Lawson Posted by Rob Lawson on 19 Nov 2019 / Comments


I often come across a misunderstanding that somehow Lifestyle Medicine exists in isolation. This couldn’t be further from the truth and is a misconception I am happy to debunk.

For the record: Lifestyle Medicine doesn’t exist to replace other approaches to medicine or healthcare. Its proponents are not engaged in some battle where we want to supersede other models of care or systems for keeping people well.

I certainly want to see a day where Lifestyle Medicine is so part of the medical mainstream that it almost ceases to exist as a concept. When that day comes, it will be completely taken for granted that lifestyle factors are critical to the management, treatment and even reversal of chronic disease. Perhaps one day we will have done such a good job of embedding Lifestyle Medicine as an approach that there will be no need for our own Society! We can but dream.

Self care is a case in point. This is a concept which has huge synergies with Lifestyle Medicine, it dovetails and complements what we do. It certainly isn’t a competitor as a concept. Similarly, the push towards social prescribing is also something we would welcome and support. There’s room for all these approaches and all have the same goal: to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

So during Self Care Week (November 18-24) you’ll find the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine giving its full-throated support. The more these approaches can find common ground the better. The Self Care Forum, for example, sees self care as crucial to helping people lead happier and healthier lives.

One of the things I would emphasise as an important part of self care is the idea of self management through group consultations. Shared Medical Appointments, as they are also known, have been a critical element of the Lifestyle Medicine approach since its inception. It’s encouraging to see their wider take up in both primary and secondary care settings right now.

As we search for effective ways to tackle the rising tide of chronic disease, group consultations offer an effective and workable solution which is popular with both patients and clinicians.

Call it Lifestyle Medicine or call it self care, ultimately it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it works. And rather than retreating into our silos, believing we have a monopoly on the truth, perhaps we should find common cause in that. Let’s put patients first, focus on what works and not get too hung up on labels.

Rob Lawson
Dr Rob Lawson
BSc MBChB MRCGP FRCGP Dip BSLM/IBLM

BSLM Trustee & Founder

Having qualified in Medicine in 1975, Rob has gained extensive experience as a GP in Scotland. His principal interests have been primary and secondary prevention of disease and the specialty of Lifestyle Medicine. As well as leading his NHS team to the highest awards for quality (2003-2013) he founded a charity in 1991 providing weekly activity and support in venues around East Lothian for sufferers of long term conditions including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, lung disease and frailty. He has retired from NHS practice to concentrate on the applications of Lifestyle Medicine to healthcare. In 2016 he co-founded BSLM, a registered charity, to promote the principles of Lifestyle Medicine to healthcare professionals and the public. On a personal note he is a cancer ‘survivor’. He can be contacted at office@bslm.org.uk.