College of Medicine and Dentistry JCU launches lifestyle medicine course suite

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JCU launches lifestyle medicine course suite

Fri, 19 Nov 2021
Categories: Staff, Alumni.

Dr Sam Manger is the academic lead for the new suite of online postgraduate courses Dr Sam Manger is the academic lead for the new suite of online postgraduate courses

James Cook University is leading the way as Australia’s first medical school to offer postgraduate courses in lifestyle medicine, an evidence-based approach to preventing and treating disease.

Dean of JCU’s College of Medicine and Dentistry, Professor Sarah Larkins, said the unique suite of online postgraduate courses met a demand across health professions.

“JCU is about training health professionals to meet the needs of populations, and increasingly that's less about a purely biomedical approach and more about fostering health and wellbeing,” Professor Larkins said.

“One of the most skilled and recognised lifestyle medicine practitioners in the country has designed and facilitated the course. Dr Sam Manger is an internationally recognised expert in the field of lifestyle medicine and an experienced general practitioner and educator.

Dr Manger, 2021 RACGP Queensland GP of the Year and JCU GP Training medical educator, is the academic lead for the online Master of Lifestyle Medicine, Graduate Diploma of Lifestyle Medicine and Graduate Certificate of Lifestyle Medicine being offered to health professionals across Australia and internationally from 2022.

“How we live heals us or harms us,” Dr Manger said. “Fifty per cent of Australians have a chronic disease and depression is now the leading cause of morbidity. Yet we know lifestyle interventions can prevent around 80 per cent of chronic disease.

“Impressively, evidence shows about 80 per cent of type 2 diabetes is reversible with lifestyle alone, and heart disease, depression, anxiety and many other illnesses are also treatable with lifestyle. Lifestyle medicine is about learning how to achieve these outcomes.”

He said JCU’s lifestyle medicine program was unique: “It has had input from experts in medicine, psychology, public health, allied health, health coaches, education, business and more. That is one of the beautiful things about lifestyle medicine: It is the meeting ground of every discipline in health.”

Dr Manger is president of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine (ASLM), hosts a medical podcast called The GP Show, and is an ambassador for Equally Well, a National Mental Health Commission-led initiative to improve the health of people living with mental illness.

He said demand was strong for lifestyle medicine, a foundational first-line medicine recommended in almost every major guideline.

“Lifestyle medicine is a rapidly growing field in clinical practice and research,” he said.

“Healthcare systems, governments, communities, Non-Government Organisations, business, schools and the technology industry are all recognising the need to address the underlying causes of chronic physical and mental disease and lead a genuine whole of person wellbeing movement.

“It is the formal evidence-based application of nutrition, fasting, movement, sleep, meditation and stress management practices, reduced substance use, social connectedness, connection with the natural world and social determinants, combined with enhanced behaviour change and health coaching, new models of care and technology to prevent and treat disease and lead to whole-of-person wellbeing.

Dr Manger said there was a need for more health professionals who were broadly skilled in these areas to meet the demand.

“This is the type of medicine the public want. Sadly though, studies show it is infrequently assessed and used in patient treatment, especially in a supported and personalised manner that leads to change. This is a major opportunity for healthcare to evolve to meet contemporary challenges as it has successfully done before.”

He said lifestyle medicine’s focus on the roots of health and of connection to community and to the natural world was closely aligned to traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices of health.

“Modern medicine actually has a lot to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander philosophies of health, and that includes moving towards healthy culture, communities and connection.  We have found strong partnerships form between lifestyle medicine health professionals and Aboriginal-led initiatives. This gives me great hope for an improvement in health inequalities through genuine and bi-directional sharing and respect.”

Dr Joanna McMillan, dietitian, author and regular host of ABC’s Catalyst program, said it was wonderful to see lifestyle medicine gaining the attention it deserves amongst medical and allied health professionals.

“I have worked for many years with Dr Manger as part of our ASLM events and conferences, and he leads the field with knowledge, passion and enthusiasm,” Dr McMillan said. “Having the opportunity to undertake a course led by him is undoubtedly a fantastic opportunity and you can be assured of quality, evidence-based teaching.”

Dr Manger said students of postgraduate courses at other institutions could also apply to complete specific lifestyle medicine subjects at JCU.

“Anyone with a health-related undergraduate degree or postgraduate degree can apply, and we do recognise prior learning of all backgrounds,” he said.

“I am genuinely excited to meet our students and help them explore all the career options lifestyle medicine has to offer and lead to a positive impact on the health of all of us.”

Applications for 2022 are open. Explore JCU’s Lifestyle Medicine courses here:

Master of Lifestyle Medicine |  Graduate Diploma of Lifestyle Medicine |  Graduate Certificate of Lifestyle Medicine