Doctor talking to patient

Equipping future healthcare professionals to talk to patients about healthy lifestyle behaviours

  • Education

Lifestyle diseases are the leading causes of death in the modern world. According to the World Health Organisation, heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes are the world’s largest killers, accounting for an estimated 38 million deaths annually, with 16 million of these being premature.

Lifestyle factors are heavily implicated in all these diseases. Individuals can do a lot to prevent the development of such conditions and healthcare professionals have the opportunity to influence the choices of their patients in every interaction.

RCSI’s pioneering approach to education equips our students to thrive in complex clinical settings and to lead their patients to better health. This September, we will introduce lifestyle medicine as a fundamental theme across the curriculum.

We are one of the first universities in the world to introduce lifestyle medicine in this way. Our goal is to ensure that our graduates have the knowledge and confidence to encourage behavioural change that will help their patients to improve their health.

Lifestyle medicine is the science and application of healthy lifestyles as interventions for the promotion of health and well-be­ing, and the prevention and treatment of lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity and some cancers.

Alongside the introduction of lifestyle medicine as a theme for medical students, a new extracurricular RCSI Certificate in Lifestyle Medicine will help ensure our students in medicine, pharmacy and physiotherapy, have the opportunity to build the skills they will need to encourage their patients to take greater ownership of their role in disease prevention.

The new certificate, which was developed by RCSI’s Department of Health Psychology and piloted during the pandemic, gives students evidence-based knowledge and practical strategies to instill healthy lifestyle behaviours in themselves and their future patients.

It will address the six pillars of healthy lifestyles: stress management, nutrition, physical activity, sleep, smoking and alcohol and drug use, with the aim of teaching behaviour change techniques and how they can be used to change personal health behaviours and that of patients.

Students will better understand the role of stress in health, how to provide nutrition advice to patients, how to advise on physical activity and optimum strategies for optimum sleep, and how to stop smoking and moderate alcohol and drug use for better health.

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.