Study explores benefits of fit and healthy doctors on their patients

Doctors and medical specialists have a responsibility to “walk the talk” when it comes to being fit and healthy role models for their patients, according to an Australian snapshot of doctors’ fitness.

Dr Clare McCann, a Registrar in the Hyperbaric Unit at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, surveyed anaesthesia residents, trainees and consultants at Monash Health’s Clayton, Dandenong and Moorabbin campuses to explore the role of medical professionals in setting an example for their patients.
 
Dr McCann’s report of her survey findings, Anaesthetists, fighting fit or fighting fat? has been submitted to the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) in Brisbane.
 
More than 2000 local and international delegates are attending ANZCA’s 2017 Think Big conference which runs from May 12-16.
 
Dr McCann, who has a passion for fitness and nutrition, said she was prompted to carry out the study in 2016 while working as a resident in Anaesthesia at Monash Health after learning there had been little Australian or New Zealand research into the health and lifestyle of doctors.
 
Her survey of 104 respondents covered basic lifestyle factors with the majority of those surveyed aged between 35-55 years.
 
She found that the majority of participants did not meet the recommended exercise target of thirty minutes, five days a week, with fifty two per cent of people not exercising more than twice a week.
 
"When it came to BMI, most of the participants (sixty six per cent) were within a normal weight range, with twenty eight and a half per cent "overweight" which is well below National average for obesity rates in Australia today,’’ Dr McCann said.
 
Fast food consumption was well below the national average and smoking was rare.  Ninety three per cent of respondents consumed some alcohol on a weekly basis.
 
‘’If we can act as role models for our patients we will enhance the patient/doctor relationship and I think as a result this will have a big impact on their ability to succeed in making healthy lifestyle choices,’’ Dr McCann said.
 
“The survey showed that doctors working within a large Anaesthetic Department in Melbourne are meeting most of the recommended guidelines when it comes to healthy lifestyle choices. Perhaps, not surprisingly, lack of time was the major factor in exercise levels being less than recommended.’’
 
“There has been a lot of discussion about obesity rates and how this is impacting on the health system but the idea that we too can be positive role models for our patients is not something that is often discussed.’’
 
Dr McCann said she hoped the study, although small, would spark some discussion amongst her peers.
 
‘’If we can start thinking more about the conversations we have with our patients regarding the importance of exercise and healthy eating, this can only be a good thing, ‘’ she said.
 
“Doctors are notorious for neglecting their own health, and in some ways I hope this is a reminder for medical practitioners to not only advocate for their patients but also identify any areas in their own health which could be improved.’’
 
Saturday May 13, 2017
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