Exercise your influence

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 49, No. 1, January February 2007, Page 15 Council on Health Promotion

One of the main goals of the Athletics and Recreation Committee is physical activity promotion. As physicians, we can have a significant impact on patients by encouraging them to be more active. A recent example is a project this committee participated in with the BC Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) where physicians gave pedometers to physically inactive patients and referred them to Community Action Sites for support in becoming more active. This project, which was carried out in Penticton and Abbotsford, turned out to be very successful with patients—it increased their physical activity by 100% and decreased their sedentary time by 25%. Although it was a short-term project covering only 6 weeks, it illustrates the importance of the role doctors play in health promotion. Funding for a similar longer-term project focusing on those at risk for diabetes has been applied for in conjunction with BCRPA.

As one of the coordinators of the pedometer project, I attended the second annual conference of the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada (CDPAC) in November to present a poster of our project. The CDPAC was created by the Public Health Agency of Canada and primarily takes a population-health approach to disease prevention. The thing I found most fascinating at this conference was that physicians are not seen to be players in the important aspect of disease prevention; there was no physician representation at the conference. I suppose our fee guide reflects the fact that physicians are not expected to be participants in disease prevention since we don’t get paid for this important activity.

However, should it remain this way? It has been clear from gains made in smoking cessation that physicians are quite successful in encouraging patients to quit smoking. Clearly, physicians can and should play a role in promoting health and preventing disease. I believe that physical activity is the next major area to focus on. Our small study and its success demonstrates that, as physicians, we can have a direct impact on patients. Employing the same tools that we have used for smoking cessation, the use of pedometers as a tool for patients to get feedback on their activity level can be reinforced by referring patients to activities in the community that will help them to become more active. Although our pedometer project did refer patients to community activities, few took advantage of these opportunities. More work needs to be done on these links.

There may soon be a fee code for prevention that we can use to bill for counseling patients about lifestyle since the General Physician Services Committee is currently working on this as part of the new fee agreement. Also, the BC Healthy Living Alliance, which is putting together a physical activity strategy for BC, hopes to have a physician-referral program as part of its plan. We hope this will allow patients to easily access pedometers and listings of resources in their communities that ultimately will help them to become—and remain—more active.

So now that the new year is here, let us help our patients get more physically active and, of course, let us lead by example. Let’s be active for health.

—Ron Wilson, MD
Chair, Athletics and Recreation Committee

Ron Wilson, MD, CCFP. Exercise your influence. BCMJ, Vol. 49, No. 1, January, February, 2007, Page(s) 15 - Council on Health Promotion.

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