Doctors’ Dilemma: The Struggle to Spark Real Lifestyle Changes in Patients

The current state of healthcare systems across the world seems to be directed towards providing sick care, not addressing obesity issues, or healthcare promotion and prevention, to facilitate real change in patients’ lives. For many professional healthcare providers, conversations surrounding weight loss and healthy living are a struggle. Time constraints, lack of patient readiness, or even lack of available resources often hinder these discussions. For some patients, living in unsafe neighborhoods or lacking financial resources may deter their ability to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

Healthcare systems must focus on transforming the sick care model to one of healthcare promotion and prevention. Physicians should take the approach of treating weight and other lifestyle issues more directly and factually in their consultations. Implementing accountability controls, such as weight measurements and providing frank discussions regarding diet, exercise, and personal relationships should be routine. Encouraging such discussions during healthcare visits is vital to addressing the increasingly large financial burden that the healthcare system currently faces with increasing obesity rates and chronic diseases.

Unfortunately, doctors often lack the necessary training to effectively promote these necessary lifestyle changes. Many healthcare providers struggle to assist patients in developing actionable goals to improve their lifestyle and overall health, resulting in limited success. Additionally, healthcare providers are not typically reimbursed for the considerable time and effort it would take to offer such coaching services. This shift in focus from necessary lifestyle changes to prescribed blood tests and prescription drugs is evident in today’s healthcare systems.

In some cases, healthcare providers argue that individuals living in poverty cannot afford the resources necessary to implement lifestyle changes, such as access to a gym or personal trainer. Although financial means may play a part, lack of emotional resources and motivation are far more significant barriers to achieving a healthy lifestyle. Valuable education and emotional support from healthcare providers or health coaches can help address these issues. Incorporating coaching techniques into medical education and nursing programs may help medical professionals learn the necessary skills to effectively motivate and guide patients towards making more informed, healthier lifestyle choices.

Healthcare providers can play a significant role in reversing diseases when they begin to prioritize providing personalized coaching for patients that focus on each patient’s unique circumstances and daily habits, e.g., diet and exercise routines. This focus on coaching and lifestyle changes can help to reduce patient dependence on prescription drugs and effectively address the root causes of many common healthcare issues such as obesity-related chronic diseases.

Transforming the current healthcare system into one that prioritizes promotion and prevention will take dedication, research, and hard work; however, the long-term health benefits are worth tackling these challenges. Offering resourceful, actionable, and affordable solutions to patients will be essential for the success of such transformations.