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President's Desk, December 2014
David L. Katz, MD, MPH

More Than a GLiMMER of Hope
This is not your garden-variety newsletter column. This is an audience participation exercise. Folks, ACLM needs $244,000* - and your voice- to change the world. Well, $244,129 to be exact, if you happen to have the cash.

That’s the final budget for a fully fleshed out version of the GLiMMER project proof-of-principle pilot I described at our (may I say: phenomenal!) meeting in San Diego. Many of you, I trust, were there.

For those who were not, I shared that I, too, have a dream. Mine is quite simple in many ways. We have known- beyond doubt, debate, or dispute- for literal decades how to prevent fully 80% of all major chronic disease: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, dementia, etc. My dream is, simply, this: let’s use what we know. As you know if you were there, the audience in San Diego kindly indulged me as I dreamed, and they looked on.

But I am, in fact, no starry-eyed dreamer. I know that dreaming of a better future will not make it so. I know the best way to predict with confidence a future worthy of our dreams- is to create it.

Make no mistake: we could create a future in which 80% of all chronic disease goes away. That, I suspect, is what draws us all to lifestyle medicine in the first place: its incredible, transformative potential to advance the human condition. We don’t need new Nobel Prizes to realize that potential. We just have to devise a way to get past the noise and nonsense, the discord and distractions, the profiteering and politicking- and use what we know.

None of us has a monopoly on such fundamental truths, but none is required. There are variations on the theme of lifestyle as medicine. But the theme is clear, compelling, and data-driven: eat food, not too much, mostly plants; be active; don’t smoke; sleep enough; dissipate stress; cultivate strong social bonds. Feet, forks, fingers, sleep, stress, and love are the 6-cylinder engine of our enterprise.

They fire on all six cylinders in the world’s Blue Zones. As a result, they live longer and better than the rest of us. All that stands between us and such blessings is…our culture.

But culture is a medium of our devising. It has inertia, admittedly, and tends to turn slowly. But collectively, we have the might to turn it as we choose. Culture is the clay- we, sculptors all.

GLiMMER purports to treat culture accordingly, and make of it what we will. The project calls for the establishment of a True Health Coalition: a global group of leading experts and organizations in health, nutrition, fitness, and medicine from diverse disciplines to come together, and rally around the core truths about disease prevention, health promotion, and lifestyle as medicine. The idea is for this group to speak loudly, and often, with one voice, reaffirming that we should, indeed: not smoke; be active; eat food, not too much, mostly plants; sleep enough; manage stress; and nurture our social connections. With the relentless cadence of the percussion section, this group will tell the world- again and again and again- the truth about getting to health, until the noise and the nonsense, the static and the salesmanship, the hype and hooey- are drowned out. Until the truth prevails.

The True Health Coalition, in turn, is part of a larger plan, to propagate access to the power of lifestyle as medicine. But it does begin with the relentless propagation of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. For the truth is what can set us free- and we are incarcerated in an endless cycle of false promises, procrastination, and missed opportunity.

Perhaps our culture has had enough hooey- profitable for its peddler, but costly for the rest of us. Perhaps our patients, neighbors and families have had enough quick-fix nonsense. Perhaps our world is ready for a bracing dose of truth, and the freedom that comes with it. If so, we must come together and provide that truth- with clarity and volume to overcome the static that prevails.

We need not renounce our differences to share common ground. There are variations on the theme of lifestyle as medicine, and each of us may favor any one over others. But our failure to showcase the common ground means that most of our population will be elsewhere altogether. Let’s meet in the promised land of lifestyle as medicine, where years are added to lives, and life is added to years- and only once there, debate whose particular patch of that ground, if any, is truly best.

For now, I seek your voices. Only together can we articulate the audible truth of lifestyle as medicine. If you agree to add your voice to this chorus, please ask Susan Benigas to add you to our True Health Coalition list-serve at sbenigas@lifestylemedicine.org.

As noted, we are also seeking $244k and change to run the 9-month GLiMMER pilot, and demonstrate the potential we have, in the strength of our unity, to promote health around the world. If you have relevant connections, I would appreciate hearing about it.

Our patients, families, friends, and communities are imprisoned by cultural inanities that favor sales over sense, profits over the promise of adding years to life, and life to years. But we can free ourselves- with the simple, solid, reliable fundamentals that make up...the truth. There is more than a GLiMMER of hope in our collective power to propagate it.

*The first $100,000 pledge has been received toward this fundraising goal.


AMERICAN COLLEGE OF LIFESTYLE MEDICINE

The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is the world's flagship professional medical association for physicians, clinicians and allied health professionals, as well as those in professions devoted to advancing the mission of lifestyle medicine.

       

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