‘Everyone deserves a chance to change their lifestyle’ – Dr Michelle McMacken, Executive Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine, NYC Health + Hospitals


Our Bureau

New York city, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals is the nation’s largest municipal healthcare delivery system in US dedicated to providing the highest quality healthcare services to all New Yorkers with compassion, dignity and respect, and regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. NYC Health + Hospitals Dr. Michelle McMacken, Executive Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine, and José Bayona, Executive Director, Office of Ethnic and Community Media, held a virtual media roundtable to discuss the expansion of the Lifestyle Medicine Program citywide, starting with NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi. Dr Itha Harewood, Medical Director of Lifestyle Medicine Program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi was also present to address the various queries along with Dr McMacken.

This program provides patients the tools to make healthy lifestyle changes, including access to plant-based diet resources and one-on-one counseling. Adults living with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or health concerns related to excess weight are eligible to enroll. The program will be at five additional new NYC Health + Hospitals sites in the coming months. The Lifestyle Medicine Program’s team supports patients in making evidence-based lifestyle changes, including a healthful plant-based diet, increased physical activity, improved sleep habits, stress reduction, avoidance of substance use, and stronger social connections.

The program can accommodate 48 new patients each month, and the care team at each site includes physicians, a nurse practitioner, a dietitian, a health coach, community health workers, a psychologist, a program coordinator, and an exercise trainer. Following the launch at Jacobi, the expansion will include NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull, Kings County, Lincoln, Elmhurst, and Gotham Health, Vanderbilt which will launch over the coming months.

During the roundtable,  Dr Michelle McMacken shared, “Healthy lifestyle behaviors are foundational to preventing and treating common chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The Lifestyle Medicine Program’s talented interdisciplinary team will provide patients with the guidance they need to adopt healthier habits, while also helping to address food insecurity and other key barriers to lifestyle change.”

She further shared that we should be eating according to our culture and local availability of food. What our grandparents used to eat was much simpler and nutritious than what we are eating today.

Mr Sunil Hali, Publisher and Promoter, The Indian EYE Worldwide Media & Entertainment Group, put forth an extremely relevant question of whether lifestyle correction could be started from a young age. Dr McMacken replied that this was much required and needs to be integrated into our education in schools. She also added that making small shifts in lifestyle can lead to big leaps in lifestyle alteration.

When asked whether patients from languages other than English can also access the program, the doctors replied in affirmative. In fact, particular attention has been placed on ensuring that the curriculum is relevant for patients from diverse backgrounds and experiences. For example, the Spanish-language curriculum reflects cultural adaptations, not simply a translation of the English-language version. Moreover, individual visits with the medical providers, dietitian, and health coach allow for tailored behavior change recommendations based on each patient’s social, financial, cultural, and family context.

The Lifestyle Medicine’s nine-month program provides every patient with the following resources:

  • 6 to 9 one-on-one counseling sessions. Patients will have 2-3 visits each with a physician or nurse practitioner, a dietitian, and a health coach to develop and implement a personalized care plan.
  • 14 weekly group classes. Topics include reading nutrition labels, grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation, and sleep and stress management techniques.
  • 8 weekly exercise classes. Patients will work with an exercise trainer and take home a resistance band for strength training.
  • 6 free, monthly deliveries of seasonal fresh produce. Patients will work with dietitians to learn about incorporating fruits and vegetables into their diet across culinary traditions and skill levels. Delicious and healthy recipes developed by the team’s dietitians accompany each produce box. (Launches early 2024)
  • Health Bucks. Patients will have access to Health Bucks, which are $2 coupons that can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at NYC farmers markets. Five of the seven program sites have farmers’ markets on their campus.
  • Culinary skills videos. Patients can learn cooking skills through short videos developed by the Lifestyle Medicine team in partnership with an online culinary school, Rouxbe. The videos will feature healthy cooking across various culinary traditions, including Caribbean, South American, Central American, and South Asian, and will be translated into Spanish, Mandarin, Bengali, and Haitian Creole. (Launches early 2024)
  • A plant-based cookbook. Cookbooks on plant-based eating for type 2 diabetes are available as well.
  • Support accessing benefits. Community health workers will help eligible patients access SNAP benefits and nutrition resources.

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