At the 1st annual conference on Lifestyle as Medicine, TNO and LUMC declared war against the current type 2 diabetes care and provided a cure solution. If lifestyle is a major cause of diabetes, lifestyle should be used for its cure! Speakers inspired the audience how in many cases type 2 diabetes can be cured by targeting the cause. A combined effort from research, ICT, behaviour, society, economy and government will provide the ‘systems solution’.
Type 2 diabetes is the major challenge for healthcare and health economy, with a million patients in The Netherlands and close to 500 million worldwide. Together with its complications, T2D is by far the biggest cost factor in health economy. Yet, current healthcare does not provide a real solution and primarily focuses on fighting symptoms (i.e., glucose control) by medication, where the patient relies on the doctor. The real cause and thus the real cure is achievable though sustained lifestyle change and self-empowerment. This was elegantly demonstrated by the first-year results of the DiRECT study, which timely were published 2 days prior to our conference. The scientific evidence for reversibility, remission and even cure of type 2 diabetes is accumulating, both from scientific studies and ‘case reports’ (presented at the conference by Hanno Pijl and Wim Tilburgs). Since type 2 diabetes is a ‘systems disease’ with multiple processes and organs involved, it also needs to be treated as a system and consequently has many personalized treatment aspects (Ben van Ommen).
The sad irony of lifestyle related diseases is that they are caused by lifestyle, but that our healthcare system is exactly not equipped to change our lifestyle. Medical staff interacts with patients for about 4 hours each year, which will not really change somebody’s lifestyle. The other 8756 hours, the patient is a citizen and needs to be empowered and assisted in another way. Andrea Evers presented an overview of behavioral change methods and focused on the newly implemented ‘Benefits’ program. Wessel Kraaij proposed personal health ownership and valorization as disruptor for self-empowered healthcare with the Health Data Cooperative as solution. Monica Peek highlighted the essential role of the community in her Chicago Southside diabetes program. Jeroen Flim added the community shaping effort of the National Diabetes Challenge, where thousands of T2D citizens participate in small group ‘walk with the doctor’ experiences. John C. Peters sketched a systems view of society, illustrated that T2D is a perfectly normal reaction to an abnormal environment and that thus the T2D citizen`s environment needs to change.
Diabetes care has become a very profitable economy. In order to change this into a cure economy, major barriers need to be overcome. Steve D. Phinney presented Virta as the virtual diabetes clinic, reversing type 2 diabetes by means of a personalized ketogenic diet in a profitable manner and convincing initial results. The role, dilemmas and transition models of food industry were discussed by Joshua Anthony, and social entrepreneur Martijn van Beek presented Voeding Leeft as community based lifestyle change program. Finally, Michel van Schaik of Rabobank offered help, networks and loans for commercial lifestyle as medicine initiatives.
Angelique Berg, the DG Public Health of the Dutch ministry of Health closed the conference. She underlined the importance of lifestyle interventions in curative care for lifestyle related diseases and warmly welcomed the initiative of TNO and LUMC to initiate and accelerate innovations for Lifestyle as Medicine.
Interested in participating in our Lifestyle as Medicine programme? Please contact Wim van Hartingsveldt.