ECU Health hosted an open house on March 7 to introduce community members to the newly dedicated space for the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic located in the ECU Health Wellness Center in Greenville.
The Greenville location is one of 12 across eastern North Carolina, designed to help patients live a healthier life through improved nutrition and exercise.
Dr. David Michael, medical director for the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, said the space is a dream come true for him and the patients he serves.
“I’ve always dreamed that my physician’s office or doctor’s office would look more like a fitness center than a hospital,” Dr. Michael said. “I thought if I could do that, I’d be onto something. So it’s just a blessing to have the lobby of our Lifestyle Medicine Clinic right in the fitness center itself. Exercise and physical activity are such important pillars to healthy living.”
There are six traditional pillars to healthy living that the clinic follows in its work with patients. Those pillars are:
- Healthy eating, including whole, plant-based foods
- Increased physical activity
- Develop strategies to manage stress
- Avoiding risky substances
- Improved sleep
- Form and maintain relationships
Brenda Leigh, director of Lifestyle Medicine at ECU Health, said the program is designed for each individual patient, and the patient’s wants and needs dictate how the program is developed.
“A lot of times people will start with one pillar and try to figure out what’s most important to them, and sometimes it might not even be what they think,” Leigh said. “They come in and say, ‘We want to lose weight.’ After the navigator talks with them for a bit, we realize all the stressors going on in their life. So we might say, ‘First, you really need to work with a social worker or a counselor and set some priorities and get some things ready in your life to then make the nutrition and exercise changes that might help your weight loss.’”
During Tuesday’s open house, the Lifestyle Medicine team also hosted a free “Lunch with a Doctor” and “Dinner with a Doctor” event. During these sessions, ECU Health providers cooked a healthy meal for participants, showed them how to prepare the meal and shared ways to get whole, plant-based foods into their diet.
Susie Houston, a nurse practitioner with ECU Health, prepared the meal for the “Lunch with a Doctor” event. She said educating attendees and showing them how to cook a tasty meal with the ingredients that typically get left behind in the grocery store is a priority during these events.
For lunch, the team put together a power bowl with tofu, vegetable toppings and a homemade dressing that attendees could choose from.
“When you think of the color of the rainbow with what we’re preparing today, you’re pretty much getting all the vitamins, minerals and then fiber that you need,” Houston said. “So if we use food as medicine, it’s this great idea that in the grocery store, if we could stick in the produce section or the perimeter in the store, that just makes a difference.”
The team plans to continue to host these free events in the future.
Leigh said she knows this program can change lives for patients as studies have shown healthy habits like diet and exercise can help slow, stop or even reverse chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
March is National Nutrition Month – start your journey to better health with the Lifestyle Medicine programs available across eastern North Carolina by calling 252-847-9908.