Vegan medical doctors Shireen Kassam and Laura Freeman have launched a new healthcare service focusing on lifestyle habits to improve people’s health and reduce the impact of COVID-19.
Plant Based Health Online (PBHO) is the UK’s first online multidisciplinary lifestyle medicine service that’s registered with the Care Quality Commission, England’s independent regulator of health and social care.
The online platform offers access to GPs, registered dietitians, nutritionists, personal trainers, a health coach and more.
Its evidence-based approach to healthcare includes helping patients transition to a more sustainable whole food plant-based diet alongside physical activity, restorative sleep, alleviation of psychological stress and fostering social connections.
Dr Shireen Kassam, founder of Plant Based Health Professionals UK and a consultant haematologist, said the lack of focus on health promotion during the pandemic has highlighted the true vulnerabilities of the UK population.
“PBHO will be using plant-based nutrition as one of the tools to help patients regain their health, because we recognise that unhealthy diets are one of the top causes of ill health in the UK, and adopting a plant-based diet is one of the healthiest choices there is,” said Kassam. “We will meet patients wherever they may be on their journey to a healthier lifestyle.”
According to Freeman, a lifestyle medicine approach has the potential to prevent and treat the majority of chronic conditions affecting people in the UK, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
A cancer survivor herself, Freeman – a dual licensed GP and certified lifestyle medicine doctor – said PBHO aims to put preventative medicine at the forefront of healthcare.
“With a focus on evidence-based dietary and lifestyle advice, we can promote improved physical and emotional health – whether a patient is a plant-based eater or otherwise. Not only will this create a convenient and easily accessible service to boost patient wellbeing, it will also help us play our part in reducing chronic disease in the UK.”
Nutrition is becoming increasingly recognised as a significant factor in disease development. Currently, the NHS spends £14 billion on diabetes treatment each year alone (Diabetes UK, 2020), with a poor diet estimated to be a bigger mortality risk than smoking (Global Burden of Disease, 2019).
Plant Based Health Online will work in conjunction with services provided by the NHS or private healthcare providers. Recommendations from a consultation will be shared with the patient’s GP or other healthcare professionals – offering an integrated service.
This approach will also allow PBHO to educate other healthcare professionals, especially GPs, on the benefits of plant-based eating.
“We know that most doctors lack education in nutrition,” said Kassam. “As such, they are not confident about offering nutritional care and are unaware of the extensive benefits of a whole food plant-based diet. By communicating with the patient’s GP – with their consent – we will use this as an opportunity to help educate our colleagues and hope that by doing so, we can share our evidence-based recommendations while increasing awareness of the power of plant-based nutrition and lifestyle medicine.”
Consultations with medical doctors are currently available only to those based in the UK, while appointments with allied health practitioners are open to people anywhere in the world, except the US and Canada.
Prices start at £165 (introductory fee), which includes a 45-minute consultation with a healthcare professional of choice and a 15-minute follow up. Additional consultations can be booked as required. Appointments for the video consultations are made by a secure, GDPR-compliant platform, Heydoc.
While initially a private service, PBHO aims to become an established National Health Service (NHS) resource in the future.
“We hope to be able to secure funding or commissioning from the NHS so that we can widen our accessibility to patients,” said Kassam. “We’re aware that currently, chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia are increasing rapidly and this places a heavy burden on the NHS as well as the people living with these conditions. We will work towards alleviating some of this pressure by providing a healthcare approach that is proactive and gets to the root cause of many of these diseases.”
Find out more about Plant Based Health Online (PBHO).