Lifestyle Medicine & Occupational Therapy- Perfect Partners

Donna Purtee Mann, OTD, MEd, BSOT, OT/L
Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, EWU

Lifestyle medicine is premised on an occupation-based perspective. Some might ask what an occupation-based perspective is. My answer would be that it is the essence of lifestyle medicine – the use of daily habits and routines to impact health and wellness. This can be preventive, sustaining or transformative. Lifestyle Medicine 2012 was my first ACLM conference experience and it delivered to me a more solidified outlook on lifestyle medicine. I am looking forward to Lifestyle Medicine 2013 for many reasons. First, there is so much enthusiasm for this cause within the ACLM membership base which I find motivating and empowering to me as a clinician. Second, sessions are not only geared towards bringing us the most up-to-date information, but are often pragmatic in nature making it easy to transfer knowledge into action. Finally, the networking! There are many opportunities to have meaningful conversations with lifestyle medicine practitioners, many of them leaders in the field. Networking is a powerful tool and is especially useful when working towards the development and implementation of new programs that embrace transformative ideals.


Having been introduced to LM as a doctoral student of occupational therapy at Loma Linda University, I am now focusing on developing the role of occupational therapy in lifestyle medicine. Dr. Wayne Dysinger and I recently co-presented at the American Occupational Therapy National Conference to a full house of occupational therapists interested in pursuing lifestyle medicine as a practice focus. Over 200 attendees enthusiastically embraced the call to LM and identified occupational therapy as a natural fit.


The 2012 conference highlighted the need to identify team members beneficial to the Lifestyle Medicine Treat the CauseMovement. The cause is embedded in lifestyle, the basic premise of occupational therapy in which ‘occupation’ is defined as those things that are necessary, valued and meaningful to the individual and that occupy our time. Occupational therapists use principles of behavioral change, personal volition, environmental influences and performance patterns to design individual plans to support change for improved occupational performance.


My practice is in academics and acute care; I will obtain my CHIP certification this Fall. As a full-time faculty member I teach principles of lifestyle medicine for practice in health, wellness, and aging programs to over 60 students per year and include lifestyle medicine principles in my research focus. As a clinician, I witness first-hand the life-altering impact of unhealthy lifestyle choices, the constant personal drive of continual poor choices in the face of life-threatening conditions, and the double-sided coin of fear that individuals face with the realization of the grave nature of their condition juxtaposed against the thought of abandoning ingrained lifestyle patterns. This change requires prolonged and complex support mechanisms with the provision of all team members. It is my belief that work with this particular population will be most challenging in this early phase because there are limited opportunities to point to successful outcomes. However, once success stories begin to present themselves, we will be able to provide testament to the power of lifestyle changes as medicine.



Working together, lifestyle medicine physicians and occupational therapists can support patients in making transformative lifestyle changes for improved health outcomes. It is a thrill and an honor to introduce occupational therapy to lifestyle medicine! I look forward to continuing to establish relationships with the pioneers of lifestyle medicine at Lifestyle Medicine 2013 this October in Washington D.C.