Dec 18, 2018
NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue announced today that its pilot program to help patients transition to a plant-based diet and healthy lifestyle will launch on January 16, 2019. The program has already attracted 260 participants, more than double what was expected, with more enrollees every day.
The Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program includes a whole-foods, plant-based diet to improve, and in some cases reverse, chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The program is designed to serve as an intensive resource for adult patients with chronic disease who wish to reduce their cardiometabolic risk through healthful lifestyle changes, including following a diet that emphasizes legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and reduces animal products, fried foods, refined grains, and added sugars.
“I believe there is a growing interest in lifestyle change, and plant-based nutrition in particular, to improve common chronic health conditions,” Dr. Michelle McMacken, director of the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program, said about the response to the program since it was announced in August. “People are interested in getting the support they need to address the root cause of health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.”
“Clearly this program is addressing an important need in the community,” said William Hicks, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “We are excited to be home to a program that will assist people who are living with chronic health conditions by giving them the tools and support they need to live a healthy lifestyle.”
“I was able to reverse my Type 2 diabetes by embracing a whole-food, plant-based diet, and my mother was able to do the exact same thing,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “There’s nothing unique about such a transformation: It’s not our DNA, it’s our dinner. I could not be any more excited about our new program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue that will give other New Yorkers the same opportunity to improve—and potentially reverse—their lifestyle-related health conditions. The Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program represents a forward-thinking paradigm in health care—a model that empowers patients to address common chronic diseases at their root cause, thereby reducing complications and restoring health. The tremendous early interest in this clinic is proof positive that New Yorkers are ready to heal.”
“Countless studies demonstrate that transitioning to a more plant-based diet alleviates the side effects associated with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, said New York State Senator Brad Holman. “Thank you to NYC Health + Hospitals and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for expanding this critical initiative to ensure New York patients receive the tools they need to live healthier, more empowered lives.”
“Plant-based diets are healthy and environmentally friendly,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “From child development to chronic disease management, diet and nutrition play a central role in health care. I commend Health + Hospitals for its leadership on this issue.”
“As someone who has eaten plant-based for years, I am happy to see Bellevue educating our community on the benefits of this diet and leading a healthier lifestyle,” said Assemblymember Harvey Epstein.
“There are so many success stories from regular New Yorkers showing that adopting a plant-based diet can not only improve healthy outcomes, but it can also save thousands of dollars in health care costs as well” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Hospitals. “I’m excited to see the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program launch next month and bring healthy, natural food options and savings to the hundreds of expected program participants at Bellevue. Too many residents in our city do not have the financial opportunity or the information to access healthy plant-based nutrition in their communities, but with investments like these we can begin to really reverse this inequity.”
Martin Schloss of Brooklyn is one of the program enrollees. He signed up for the program after his wife, Madelyn Pullman, read an article about Dr. McMacken and the plant-based nutrition program. “At first it was hard to find an internist willing to take on the task of caring for me and my wife, since we are both vegan and diabetic,” Mr. Schloss said. “Other providers seemed to roll their eyes at our lifestyle. I can’t wait for my wife to apply and join me in this experience.”
Madeline Chang of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, said, “I have high cholesterol, and my family has a history of diabetes, so I wanted to have a healthier lifestyle. I am very excited to be a part of this program at Bellevue and want to eventually help educate the public of its benefits.”
Arlene Marie Karole is a breast-cancer survivor and a patient in the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center, a program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue for people who lived, worked, or went to school in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 and immediately afterward. “I was challenged with finding a local plant-based diet program that can help me lose weight and live my absolute best life. So I was lucky enough to find out about Dr. McMacken’s program. I can’t wait to get started!”
The $400,000 pilot program is funded by NYC Health + Hospitals and was originally established to serve at least 100 patients from all five boroughs. The program has hired new staff, including a health coach and a dietitian. In addition, four physicians have been dedicated to the program.
The health care staff will start seeing the 260-plus patients on the wait list in January, working with the patients to change their lifestyle and eating patterns. “Our plan is to accommodate as many patients as possible from the waiting list. After the pilot phase of this program, we are hoping to have ongoing resources to enroll even more patients,” Dr. McMacken said.
The pilot program is a result of Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams’ advocacy around plant-based nutrition. Since positively experiencing the life-changing effects of a plant-based diet, he has remained focused on bringing its powerful health benefits to the rest of the city. A natural progression of Borough President Adams’ efforts, the creation of the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program was born out of a meeting with Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio, NYC Health + Hospitals leaders, including Dr. Michelle McMacken, director of the NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Adult Weight Management Program, and other plant-based nutrition experts.
Patients have been referred to the program by their primary care providers and specialists within the NYC Health + Hospitals health system, as well as by providers in other health systems and in the community. The program also accepts patients who come in on their own and meet program criteria.
Those interested in learning more about the program may callto receive more information.