Train healthcare workers in lifestyle medicine – Expert

KUALA LUMPUR – It is high time to train healthcare workers in lifestyle medicine (LM) to reduce mortality and morbidity associated with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and future global communicable disease pandemics, according to an expert in LM.

Founder and President of the Malaysian Society of Lifestyle Medicine (MSLM), Dr Sivaneswaran Poobalasingam, said overwhelming evidence indicates that poor lifestyle choices – which include poor nutrition, lack of exercise, stress and alcohol abuse among others – are key factors in the pathogenesis of NCDs.


“Our (Malaysian) government can take the lead in training healthcare experts in lifestyle medicine as this will help us to play a significant role in reducing mortality and morbidity associated with the NCDs and the risk of mortality and morbidity in this group in future global pandemics, not forgetting COVID-19.

“Addressing lifestyle factors has the potential to increase the quality of life and longevity in the individual and reduce healthcare expenditure,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview, recently.

Dr Sivaneswaran said research has shown that lifestyle intervention reduces the development of diabetes by 60 per cent – compared to 30 per cent with medical intervention.

He also suggested introducing a model to integrate the discipline of LM into undergraduate medical education besides coming up with a sustainable model to educate physicians in the practice of LM.

LM is an emerging discipline in healthcare that has the potential to address the malady plaguing mankind besides being an evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic intervention that aims to prevent, treat and reverse chronic disease by addressing the underlying causes.

Its six core pillars are healthy diet, physical activity, avoidance of tobacco and excess alcohol, adequate sleep, stress management, and social connectivity.

Dr Sivaneswaran, who is also on the Advisory Board of The International Journal for Disease Reversal and Prevention, said Malaysia recently hosted the virtual Board Certification Examination in Lifestyle Medicine for Physicians. About 150 physicians from the Asia Pacific region sat for the examination in Malaysia and Australia.

He said the examination was conducted by the acclaimed International Board of Lifestyle Medicine. The Malaysian Society of Lifestyle Medicine is affiliated to the Lifestyle Medicine Global Alliance.

“Harvard Medical School will be holding the same Lifestyle Medicine Board Certification examination in June 2021, and Kuala Lumpur will once again hold these examinations in August 2021,” said the medical doctor, adding that MSLM was established in 2017 to advocate lifestyle change among the public and to establish lifestyle medicine as central to healthcare.