University of São Paulo: Lifestyle as an agent of one’s own health

Transforming the individual into the protagonist of their own health and well-being is the objective of a medicine already taught in Brazilian medical schools. This is the area that proposes the therapeutic use of lifestyle to promote and restore people’s health, says João Paulo Dias Souza, professor at the Department of Social Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto (FMRP) at USP .

The approach, according to Souza, is effective in the treatment of chronic diseases, working on nutrition, physical activity, sleep, control of toxic substances, stress management and healthy relationships. Putting this type of medicine into practice, however, is a challenge that universal access to the practice faces, says Souza.

The professor uses chronic diseases as an example and says that drugs and surgery, the most common strategies of conventional medicine, “offer a solution, most of the time, palliative and not a cure”. Lifestyle medicine, on the other hand, awakens the patient to the relationship between their behaviors and habits, those that directly impact their health and “clearly places the person as an agent of their own healing”.

On the other hand, Souza is concerned when he considers that “the adoption of a healthy lifestyle depends on access to certain conditions that a large part of our population does not have”, such as fresh and good food and a physical exercise routine. This situation, according to the professor, makes the universal adoption of lifestyle medicine difficult, despite all its positive impacts on health.

Undergraduate lifestyle medicine
The therapeutic approach is not included as a specific discipline in the Medicine courses at FMRP and at the Faculty of Dentistry of Bauru (FOB) at USP , but even so, it is integrated into graduation, inform its coordinators.

“It is present in almost all approaches to diseases when it comes to risk factors for them and also how to prevent them, that is, the subject is present within the curriculum of our college”, explains Júlio Cesar Moriguti, coordinator of the Coordinating Committee of the Medicine Course and professor at the Department of Internal Medicine at FMRP. According to Moriguti, medical students understand the therapeutic practice of lifestyle by noticing that several diseases can be avoided by controlling risk factors, which “go through lifestyle changes”.

In the experience of Marcelo Causin Benedeti, a fifth-year medical student at FMRP, contact with lifestyle medicine takes place at different times during graduation. “We see this over and over again in different medical specialties and with different approaches,” which is “very enriching and very effective for learning,” he says.

Integration of knowledge in medical education
For Luiz Fernando Ferraz da Silva, coordinator of the Medicine course at FOB and professor at the Department of Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine (FM) of São Paulo , both at USP, there is no separation between conventional medicine and lifestyle medicine, but rather an integration of concepts.

“The medicine that we say ‘more traditional’ and which is much more related to drug and procedural treatments, in fact, it ends up benefiting a lot”, while there are also benefits for lifestyle medicine, says the professor . It is that “change in lifestyle alone is not enough for you to deal with all situations and all problems”, explains Silva, defending that they are complementary concepts in which the “secret is precisely in the integration of these processes”.

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