Most physicians probably feel like broken records every time they tell a patient to “Make sure to eat healthy and get daily exercise.” In my brief time thus far in the medical world, I have heard this simply said, but not so simply followed instructions over and over again. Often, it seems as if this recommendation is habitually tacked on to the end of each patient visit for good measure—another box checked. However, amidst a rising tide of chronic disease and lifestyle-related conditions, this advice must be reinforced with concrete action plans for goal setting, behavior modification, and simple ways to monitor progress. For many physicians, patient motivation for behavior change is a rusted skill set with too many unknown variables and predictable frustrations—instead, the prescription pad is readily accessible. And let’s admit that often times, we who are so willing to dole out this advice are struggling to figure out how to implement it in our own busy lives. Indeed, we all recognize that this is sound advice and believe that the world would be a much healthier (and presumably happier) place if we all abided by these words, but the mountain of change appears insurmountable.
A wise man once said “change starts with the man in the mirror.” Physicians, as protectors of health, have a responsibility to embody and exude health in the way they live their own lives. If health care is ever to shift towards a more prevention-focused, patient-centered, and integrative care model, the physician must be the role model for how this will look in action. And indeed, actions speak louder than words. Change is set in motion through examples that can be witnessed, admired, and adopted one at a time, slowly but surely. Thankfully, there are many physicians and medical school students out there who take their own health very seriously and are committed to personal wellness and active living. Wouldn’t it be great if these role models joined forces and put their passion on display for their friends, families, and patients to see? Think about the example that this would set. We would be reaching beyond our responsibility of treating disease and actually inspiring health! And doing this collectively, unified in our effort and our vision, this message would be amplified exponentially. The broken record would become a megaphone that we could use to recruit our patients, friends, and even some of our willing colleagues along the journey towards an active and healthier America.
From this vision arises a new initiative here at Doctors for America. In our unified effort to shape a bright and impactful future for Doctors for America and a healthy future for Americans, one of our focus areas this year and beyond will be to organize teams of physicians around the country to run races in partnership with local clinics and charities. No matter how much we emphasize the importance of healthy lifestyle through our words, nothing speaks louder than action. In the spirit of practicing what we preach, we are launching a Doctors for America “Promote & Practice Prevention” campaign, the initial focus of which will be to recruit and organize teams of physicians to participate in charity-sponsored races nationwide. This Docs Run initiative will organize and connect physicians and medical students across America who are passionate about health and wellness, who practice (or who want practice) active lifestyles, and who are committed to spreading the message of prevention and the power of wellness nationwide.
Teams organized on the local level will be the key functional units in this effort. Each team will partner with a local clinic or charity of its choosing and engage in a fundraising effort to raise resources for preventive health care. This effort will be capped off with participation in a race of the teams choosing, which will be both a symbolic show of commitment to preventive health and wellness, and also a means for team members themselves to enjoy the benefits of active living. We believe that prevention and wellness must be developed, implemented, and nurtured on the local level based on the collective ideals, beliefs, and needs of the community. Local clinics and charity organizations are the vehicles through which preventive care is provided, health information is disseminated, and the commitment to health and wellness is instilled in a community. Docs Run will assist in procuring the resources and funding that will allow these community partners to thrive. To complement this, DFA will use its manpower and organizational capacity to advocate for prevention and wellness on a national stage. Currently, the funds allocated towards preventive care and community health in the Affordable Care Act are in jeopardy. It will take a national effort to save these valuable resources, distribute them equitably on the local level, and put them towards achievable, high-yield projects. Partnership between a national organization like DFA and community partners that share the same ideals and commitment is the ideal model to secure support, publicity, and resources for preventive care now and in the future. We are committed to being leaders in this effort.
The movement is underway. Please post you comments, thoughts, and ideas for Docs Run below. And stay tuned for updates and think about how you can get involved to help spread the word—and even better, the ACTION!