Embrace the Public Health agenda...
Many long-term health conditions in the UK are closely linked to well-known lifestyle risk factors. Around 40% of the UK’s disability adjusted life years lost (a measure of life years lost from disease) are attributable to tobacco, hypertension, alcohol, being overweight or being physically inactive.
A patient-centred, whole person approach has always been at the core of osteopathic care but are we doing enough to try and combat preventable diseases? And with our recent recognition as Allied Health Professionals, is now an ideal time to actively engage in ‘healthy conversations’ with our patients and embrace a wider Public Health agenda?
...as Allied Health Professionals using evidence-based practice
In 2017 Osteopathy became the latest profession to join the group of professionally autonomous health care practitioners known as Allied Health Professionals (AHPs), reflecting the growing reputation of our profession.
In the UK the 14 AHPs are the third largest workforce in the NHS and wider care system and include occupational therapists, physiotherapists, art, speech and music therapists, dieticians and paramedics as well as now osteopaths.
AHPs use scientific principles and evidence-based practice for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of acute and chronic diseases. Their focus is on prevention and improvement of health and wellbeing to maximize the potential for individuals to live full and active lives within their family circles, social networks, education and the workplace.
Empower patients to make healthy choices
While the majority of AHPs work for the NHS many, including the majority of osteopaths, work in the private sector and also voluntary and social care sectors. We all work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, prisons, people’s homes and the wider community. The breadth of our skills and our reach across people’s lives and organisations makes us ideally placed to lead and empower individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices.
In early 2017, NHS England’s Chief AHP officer published Allied Health Professionals into Action – a call to action to increase the use of AHPs to help transform health, care and wellbeing in England.
The development of this framework has been an exciting process, using crowdsourcing to facilitate an extensive online conversation with AHPs, system leaders and the public, with tens of thousands of contributions, comments and votes.
Make every contact count
One of many initiatives that has been set up, and that osteopaths could implement easily and successfully, is the Making Every Contact Count approach.
Making Every Contact Count is an approach to behaviour change that utilises the millions of day to day interactions that individuals have with other people to support them in making positive changes to their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Making Every Contact Count focuses on the lifestyle issues that, when addressed, can make the greatest improvement to an individual’s health:
· Stopping smoking
· Drinking alcohol only within the recommended limits
· Healthy eating
· Being physically active
· Keeping to a healthy weight
· Improving mental health and wellbeing
Your patients expect your help
Surveys show that no other occupational groups command the same public trust as front line health professionals. So how do we make the most of that trust?
Some health professionals can be apprehensive about talking about risk factors for premature death and ill health (like a patient’s weight, alcohol consumption or smoking).
But these conversations have a crucial role in improving the health of our population and according to the NHS, 9/10 people expect an AHP to give them advice about health behaviours.
If you are unsure where to start then this Making Every Count pocket guide briefly explains the links between lifestyle behaviours and preventable health conditions in the UK and suggests a format for having a lifestyle focused ‘health chat’. Additional resources can be found on the Making Every Contact Count website.
We don’t need to be experts in obesity and smoking cessation to make a difference, often a brief conversation delivered in as little as 30 seconds can be enough to initiate a change in someone so let’s see if we can do our bit, and make every contact count.
Kate practises as an osteopath at Core Clapton on Thursdays. Kate is constantly inspired by the way osteopathy addresses not only the physical factors that contribute to pain, but the psychological ones too.