It probably wasn’t until Dr Dean Ornish published his research showing that comprehensive lifestyle change could reverse heart disease in 1991, that ‘lifestyle change’ as a medical intervention really gained recognition. Since then, numerous studies have shown the benefits of lifestyle change programs on conditions ranging from heart disease to mental health, prostate cancer, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
It’s worth pointing out that lifestyle change is much more than just changing health behaviours. It involves attitudes and beliefs, social, societal and environmental factors, and of course our personal circumstances, and starts with enhancing self-empowerment and self-efficacy to take charge of and improve our own health.
Determinants of health
There are numerous determinants of health and well-being, ranging from genetic inheritance, to early childhood development, through to to behavioural. Others are socioeconomic, occupational or environmental, and of these, some may be modifiable, such as poor health literacy, unhealthy work practices, social isolation, or exposure to toxins in our environment.
Then there are a number of somewhat ‘self-inflicted’ (perhaps better understood as ‘socially inflicted’) behavioural determinants, such as poor diet and nutrition, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol overconsumption, which along with other factors like chronic stress and sleep debt can lead to overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, lung diseases, kidney disease, asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, dementia, anxiety and depression and some cancers.
Although the combined effect of the four most preventable lifestyle factors is well known to account for at least 70% of the total healthcare burden, attempts by government to address the problem have been dwarfed by the scale and velocity of the growth in chronic and lifestyle-related conditions in recent years.
Finally, there are more subtle but equally important influences on health, like stress, social isolation, anxiety, poor or inadequate sleep, lack of connectedness, loss of meaning and purpose, along with numerous environmental influences. These may also be modifiable.
How it works
Lifestyle change deals with the root causes of the problem; the modifiable aspects of the whole person (physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual), attitudes and beliefs, society, environment and circumstances, underpinned by self-empowerment and enhancing self-efficacy to manage and improve our own health.
However lifestyle change can be ‘difficult’ and usually requires structure and support to identify and address the areas that are out of balance in our lives.
Open Health will directly address this need by providing an accessible, scalable and cost-effective program to support people interested in improving their health.
Read more about the research and rationale for the program here.
Find out how you can get involved here.