Intentional Design of an Online Lifestyle Medicine Course
At least 6 in 10 adults has one chronic medical condition, with 7/10 deaths attributable to chronic disease, accounting for 1.7 million lives lost each year (CDC). The morbidity and mortality of chronic conditions is attributable to the healthcare provider’s fixation on symptomatic disease management rather than the prevention-based model. This is partly due to the lack of provider training related to coordinated, team-based care that allows for a unified, evidenced-based message delivered to the patients across all healthcare professions. An emerging field, lifestyle medicine (LM), has proven to be an effective way to prevent chronic disease development and improve chronic disease management. Guided by the evidence that LM is best delivered in an IP manner, a 12-week, one-credit hour elective online course, Lifestyle Medicine for Healthcare Professionals, was developed collaboratively by Physician Assistant(PA), Physical Therapy(DPT), Pharmacy(PharmD), Psychology(Psych), and Medicine(MD) faculty. The topics covered were based on the six pillars of LM: sleep, nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management, social connection, and avoidance of risky substances. This pilot elective course enrolled 15 students representing podiatry, PA, DPT, MD and PharmD programs. The IP approach undertaken was reflected in the instructional objectives for each session. A Qualtrics survey consisting of open-ended and five-point Likert scale questions (1-Strongly Disagree to 5-Strongly Agree) was administered at the conclusion of the course to assess the course’s effectiveness along with the IP aspects of the course. A total of 15/15 (100%) of students completed the survey. Students ranked the IP aspect highly, as reflected by the question: “Course effectively demonstrated the value of an interprofessional approach to lifestyle medicine” (4.29/5, SD 0.88). Thematic analysis of open-ended questions reflected an appreciation of IP inclusion, summarized by a student quote when asked whether the IP purposeful design enhanced course delivery: “I thought it enhanced the delivery of the content because the professors and students were all from different fields and provided different perspectives.” The need for instructing health profession students about preventive health to prevent or mitigate chronic disease is well recognized. However, traditionally LM related topics were delivered in a segmented manner, void of the integrated approach described in this course. The demonstrated ability of the course to impart health profession students with an improved understanding of the value of preventive health messages delivered in a team-based approach, may assist students to thrive and deliver a cohesive message to improve patient outcomes in their future practice.