A group of family physicians in Northwest B.C. are leading the B.C. launch of a new health care initiative that’s earning recognition across the province, and could potentially bring groundbreaking change to the health care system.
The initiative has already earned two awards: Top Innovation in Primary Care from the BC College of Family Physicians and Award of Excellence from Rural Coordination Centre of B.C.
Called the CHANGE Program (Canadian Health Advanced by Nutrition and Graded Exercise), the initiative brings together doctors, kinesiologists, and dietitians to support people in bringing about long-term lifestyle changes to diminish, or even reverse, their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
It’s the first time a program like this has run in B.C., and its launch was led by a group of family doctors from Terrace, Smithers, Houston, and Haida Gwaii.
Research cited on the CHANGE BC website says that 19 per cent of patients in a national study experienced a reversal of one or more conditions of metabolic syndrome, which include low HDL-cholesterol, high triglycerides, hypertension, insulin resistance, and obesity. The site says a further 42 per cent demonstrated improvement in their diet and exercise scores, and participation in the program was also associated with a reduction in the 10-year risk of having a heart attack.
|Stewart Dr. Brenda Huff, left, and Houston Dr. Onuora Odoh, right, receive the Award of Excellence from the Rural Coordination Centre of B.C. at a BC Rural Health Conference May 12. (Sharon Mah photo)|
“This is huge,” said Colleen Enns, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Division of Family Practice.
“With very targeted lifestyle supports, it can actually prevent diabetes… and BC and Canada have hundreds of thousands of people who are at risk or (already) do have diabetes.”
The program not only partners family doctors with kinesiologists and dietitians, but the Northwest Doctors have also partnered with the University of British Columbia to bring in kinesiology students to help run the program in primary care.
That was one of the major reasons the initiative won the Award of Excellence from the Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc), said RCCbc media relations officer Sharon Mah.
“Part of the reason why CHANGE BC was such a strong candidate (for the award) was that they’d actually formed all these partnerships with UBC School of Kinesiology, the Metabolic Syndrome group, the GPSC (General Practice Services Committee),” said Mah.
“And they were working across multiple communities and were very collaborative in their approach,” she said.
The group was nominated by the Northwest Division of Family Practice for the award, and they won one of three awards given out annually by RCCbc.
Enns from the division of family practice says there were also several smaller community-based partnerships, including with the My Fitness gym in Terrace, the District of Houston Recreation Centre, the Gwaii Trust Society to fund kinesiology students to come.
The other unique aspect of the way the way the program launched in B.C. is that it was driven forward by doctors themselves, said Enns.
She explained that the doctors met as part of the division of family practice, and decided it was a priority.
The doctors at the helm of the B.C. launch are Dr. Greg Linton (Terrace), Dr. Wouter Morkel (Smithers), Dr. Onuora Odoh (Houston), Dr. Brenda Huff (Stewart) , and Dr. Jocelyn Black and Dr. Matthew Menard (Haida Gwaii).
Enns says the CHANGE Program was initially done as a study by the Metabolic Syndrome Canada in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, and then, because of its success and affordability, was developed into a program for primary health care by the non-profit.
A total of 80 patients are involved in the program in the Northwest so far, and a number of kinesiologists and dietitians have moved to various communities for the program.
Five central aspects of the program are listed on the CHANGE BC website, and are as follows:
(1) The family doctor plays an active role in supporting and monitoring progress.
(2) A team approach which includes the family doctor, a dietician and a kinesiologist.
(3) Personalized diet-exercise plan tailored for the patient, rather than a cookie cutter approach.
(4) Gradual intervention that recognizes that bad habits die hard, and focuses on small, manageable steps towards achievable goals.
(5) Close followup over 12 months, recognizing that change takes time and offering consistent support for a full year.