Four NHS doctors are on a mission to reverse a million chronic disease cases and save the NHS from record levels of post-pandemic demand and staff burnout.
Ukrainian-born emergency doctor Dr Linda Mizun and GPs Erica Lin, Adrian Jeyakumar and Wendy Stammers have used their own money, time and passion to launch a lifestyle medicine revolution in the UK.
The medics, all certified Lifestyle Medicine practitioners, have created a unique online doctor-led resource hub and community where people can get free coaching, education and support to change and lengthen their lives.
Hero of Health was created during Lockdown by Dr Mizun, an emergency medicine doctor at Rotherham General Hospital. “I just couldn’t bear it any longer. Every day you go to work and see people who are dying prematurely from acute presentations of long-term diseases that I know are preventable and even reversible.
“If only we could reach these patients earlier in their lives, even just weeks or months, before everything comes to a head, before that heart attack strikes, before they are paralysed by a stroke, before that breast cancer develops and spins out of control.
“These are the diseases which are both robbing our patients of decades of quality living, resulting in premature deaths, and are the reason behind our overwhelmed, crumbling NHS. These are the diseases which fill my waiting rooms, create significant delays for elective operations and huge waiting times.”
Dr Mizun joined forces with Birmingham-based Primary Care Physician Dr Erica Lin at the height of the pandemic to offer free, Sunday afternoon Zoom talks from world-renowned lifestyle medicine experts followed by informal coaching sessions.
They have since been joined by Sheffield GP and health coach Dr Stammers and Doncaster GP Dr Jeyakumar to develop Hero of Health which now involves a multidisciplinary team of doctors, dietitians, coaches and chefsdelivering a six-step lifestyle medicine programme delivered through an innovative, online resource hub.
Dr Lin said: “We set out to inspire and empower people to enjoy good health by sharing free credible, research-based information delivered by experts and having life-changing conversations in a friendly and accessible way.
“Our aim now is to work with the NHS to succeed against the chronic disease problem. Doctors can refer their patients online to our weekly events, walks, online and offline community and educational group sessions.”
One GP practice in Sheffield is already seeing the benefit of referring patients to weekly Walk Tea Talk sessions that are led by members of the Hero of Health team. The group complete a gentle walk for an hour followed by a lifestyle medicine coaching session.
Dr Michael Boyle from Birley Medical Centre is also a Trustee of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine. He said: “It’s working really well. The very supportive, non-threatening environment means patients are choosing to make changes to their diets and lifestyles which is having really positive effects on their physical and mental health.”
Alongside more sustainable and affordable plant-based diets, physical exercise, stress and sleep management, the passionate Hero of Health team is also calling for better lifestyle and nutritional education in schools and changes to the medical school curriculum.
Dr Wendy Stammers added: “We are not telling patients what to do but aim to inspire and empower patients to initiate and maintain long-lasting lifestyle changes that have been proven to prevent and reverse the long-term diseases responsible for 89% of deaths in the UK.
“We can reverse chronic disease and give people happier, healthier, longer lives if we shift the balance to preventative and lifestyle medicine – and that starts in our schools.”
Hero of Health have also just launched a lifestyle medicine chronic disease reversal course for health professionals, employers and individuals. Dr Jeyakumar, a Board Certified Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner and GP, said: “The aim is to create knowledgeable advocators. People do not realise just how strong the evidence is for lifestyle medicine and its role in preventing and reversing chronic diseases that kill so many people.
“A lot of the time in general practice it doesn’t feel like we are making a difference, just kicking the can down the road, seeing the same patients again and again with the same things.
“Ten-minute appointments are just not enough to address the underlying causes of the chronic diseases that we are presented with every single day. The way to do this is through group consultations and coaching with peer-to-peer support in the local community.
“It would also be great to have lifestyle hubs de-prescribing walks and talks all geared to supporting people to lead healthier lives and so reducing the huge pressures on the GP and acute healthcare sectors”
For more information go to www.heroofhealth.com