make preventive health part of your business
By delivering evidence-based exercise programs that are recognised by government and other peak health bodies, you can build mutually beneficial referral relationships with healthcare professionals, says David Menzies, national program manager for Fitness Australia’s Lift for Life program.
The increasing engagement of the fitness industry in the management and prevention of chronic health conditions demonstrates how we are being challenged to deliver more. The fitness industry is being asked to embrace the challenge in order to become an integral partner in Australia’s broader population health agenda.
Growing evidence supports the benefits of physical activity in the management and prevention of many chronic conditions. A prime example, an increase in physical activity, in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, can reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus by almost 60 per cent in at-risk individuals1. The evidence is clear, but to be truly effective in preventive health, the fitness industry needs information, education, integration and increased connection with the broader health sector.
Lift for Life accredited trainers are currently delivering the Lift for Life program, an evidence-based progressive resistance training program supported by funding to Fitness Australia under the Australian Government’s Healthy Communities Initiative (HCI). These trainers are helping hundreds of Australians with, or at risk of, chronic conditions to be more healthy, active and independent. Other chronic disease management programs under the HCI include BEAT IT, Austcycle, Heartmoves, Heart Foundation Walking and HEAL.
Fitness Australia, and these other bodies, have the role of ‘integrators’ in the Healthy Communities Initiative. To cite the definition used by Nemours Children’s Health System in the US, ‘an integrator is an entity that serves a convening role and works intentionally and systemically across various sectors to achieve improvements in health and well-being. The integrator role is not one-size-fits-all, but rather must be flexible to adapt in response to the needs of the community or population it serves’.
Annmaree Certoma in the City of Hume in Victoria runs the Lift for Life program at Broadmeadows Leisure Centre and attributes its success to the referrals from local general practitioner Dr Ralph Audehm, clinical director at Dianella Community Health. Dr Audehm regularly refers patients to the program because of the recognised value that a low cost exercise and rehabilitation program provides to his patients. Annmaree says that reporting on participants’ progress in the Lift for Life program to their GP is crucial to its success and that it reflects well on the fitness industry.
Fitness Australia has also received funding from the NSW Ministry of Health to support a free public health service, the Healthy Workers Initiative’s Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service. This collaboration provides the fitness industry with another opportunity to assist those most in need of support and who have decided to take a step towards re-gaining their health and wellbeing.
Fitness Australia is also in the process of developing a dedicated web space that will assist the industry in accessing information and resources in preventive health. Fitness Australia’s work with federal, state and local governments has provided the industry a platform to engage in population health initiatives by providing data that clearly illustrates the ability of the industry to positively impact health outcomes.
"To be truly effective in preventive health, the fitness industry needs information, education, integration and increased connection with the broader health sector."
1.http://exerciseismedicine.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Diabetes-Type-2.pdf (Knowler WC, Barrett-Connor E, Fowler SE et al. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346(6): 393–403.)
Keen to work outside the square?
To start collaborating and move into multi-disciplinary care, consider expanding your capabilities, clients and working group. Safe and effective exercise delivery to people with chronic health conditions is dependent upon an ongoing collaborative approach between the health professional and exercise professional.
An exercise professional who holds a minimum Certificate IV (Fitness) qualification can deliver exercise to people with managed conditions under the guidance of the individual’s GP or allied health professional. It is in this capacity that the exercise professional becomes an important member of the client care team.
For more information visit www.fitness.org.au/preventivehealth
David has 30 years’ experience in exercise science, physical activity promotion, primary health and population health. He has specific experience in chronic disease self-management, behaviour change theory, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, programming for chronic disease and resistance training for people with chronic heart failure. David is national program manager for Lift for Life at Fitness Australia, which is being delivered under the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health.