Shifting the Model: Health Care Focused on Wellness

By Catherine Brown, MS, RDN, CDE

For those of us following the trends in health care reform, it seems like we have been discussing new models of care for years. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 had many provisions to allow for a health care system more focused on wellness than disease. The shift to patient-centered care has challenged old models of authoritative health care providers. Reimbursement is becoming more focused on quality and outcomes, rather than usage. However, like most things, change comes slowly. We are all still frustrated with aspects of our health care system: access to our providers, billing, communication among our specialists, and so on.

A Shift in Tone

Yet, it seems that the tide is turning. While recently attending the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, the world’s largest annual meeting of nutrition professionals, I was impressed with the number of sessions that not only presented new models of care, but also shared real-life stories about success with these new models. Imagine a health care system where your primary care physician can walk you down the hall to a credible nutrition professional who works with you based on your individual needs and preferences. Imagine follow-up after your visit and referral to a community-based program that keeps your physician updated on your progress. Imagine a collective group of professionals collaborating to help you stay well.

On the Front Lines

Contributing to this movement is Hager Sharp’s client, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP). NDEP Director Joanne Gallivan, MS, RDN, and NDEP Chair Linda Siminerio, PhD, RN, CDE, presented “RDNs: Take a Leading Role in Diabetes Prevention Strategies and Behavioral Changes.” In this session, they outlined the evidence for type 2 diabetes prevention and the many ways registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) can make an impact on our nation’s diabetes epidemic. Key elements to success include bridging the gap between clinical and community settings and providing strategies and support to make lifestyle changes.

Looking Ahead

The momentum for shifting to a culture of wellness is mounting. Health communications specialists can do their part by spreading the evidence for effective disease prevention and highlighting success stories that illustrate patient-centered and outcomes-based approaches.

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