lectern shotThe podcast “Consumer’s Guide To Health” returned to the airwaves a couple of weeks ago. This biweekly podcast and live stream airs on BlogTalkRadio every second Thursday at 11:00am central time. Join the discussion!

This episode is entitled “The Smart Life Project”.

There are 34 previous episodes currently available on my BlogTalkRadio channel. You can subscribe via RSS or the podcasts are also available on iTunes.

The next episode will be on Thursday, February 2.

With the resumption of the podcast, I am adding a little something extra: an accompanying transcript from the show. For those who would prefer to read instead of listen - enjoy!

Transcription Of Episode 35: The Smart Life Project

Welcome to the Smart Life Project's "Consumer's Guide To Health" for January 19, 2012 and a fond hello and welcome back! I'm your host, Allan Besselink, coming to you live from what appears to be a beautiful, sunny Austin, Texas today. This show is brought to you by the Smart Life Project, a health initiative based in Austin, Texas committed to providing sports science solutions for training, rehab, and life. Life is a sport - play smart.

Becoming a consumer of your own health and health care is critical in this day and age. The health care and fitness worlds can be a challenge to negotiate. But we are also in an era of accessibility to information, and as I always say, knowledge is power - if only we'd use it. The primary goal of this show is to increase awareness of these issues so that people can become better consumers of their own health - from the grass roots level right on up.

The show has taken a bit of a hiatus over the past year but very happy to be back on the airwaves and being able to provide listeners with good solid consumer-based information regarding their health. My perspective on the issue of health is rather unique in a sense. I have experienced the world as a physical therapist, an endurance sports coach, an educator, an author, a participant, and, yes, even a patient. But first and foremost in all of that, I am passionate about the improvement and optimization of the health and fitness worlds, and certainly stand by the power of the sports sciences, evidence-based practice, and sound clinical reasoning to lead us from the dilemma that is the current status of the health care and fitness communities.

Let's face it though - the inability to challenge our belief systems in the face of good scientific evidence is the primary limiting factor in the advancement of both health care and coaching, as well as human performance and injury prevention. And as I always say – and I will remind you once again – please, don't shoot the messenger.

Over the past 40 years, there has been what I would consider a progressive and silent attack waged on the health of the American population. It has been a gradual stealth attack – definitely in stealth mode – but it appears to be an attack nonetheless.

The root of the problem begins with a very simple premise, and that is: we have a dysfunctional health care system that, truly, is more about "illness" than it is about "health". We have many chronic medical conditions in our aging population that have forced the cost of health care to skyrocket. But if you think the problem is with the Baby Boomers, and many people do, then think again. The same effect is noted with our youth, who are growing up inactive, overweight and having low self respect. The current system is, really, unsustainable when it consumes 17% of the gross domestic product – and it is only going to magnify over time given the current population dynamics. As I have noted before, Generation X + Generation Z adds up to what I would call an impending health disaster. Not a good thing.

Interestingly enough, the phrase "patient-centered care" seems to come up on a regular basis but that has also become a bit of a misnomer. The current system isn't "patient-centered" in any way whatsoever. The political system promotes special interests long before the health consumer. The system promotes reimbursement models that completely divest patients from provider. There is a noted lack of evidence-based practice in both the health care and fitness communities. Both. There is a sense of almost indignation when those that support the system - you know, folks like myself, the provider - are asked to be accountable to the consumer. Imagine that – be accountable to the consumer. The current health care system functions as a separate entity from the fitness community. They are very separate from each other in many ways. Most people in the health care and fitness communities are over-served by products and services, marketing schemes and the like. They are either too complicated or too expensive or both. Deming once noted that there are three dysfunctions of our culture - fragmentation, over-dependence on competition, and reactiveness - and these are certainly all prevalent in our health system today.

But perhaps a far greater problem is the belief systems of the population. They have grown accustomed to accept the current standards of care and the current standards of practices. The culture is driven by fear. People have lost faith in their own self-efficacy. They don’t think they can take care of these things on their own, they need to go to somebody to get fixed, they have become more passive. They have grown to forget that knowledge truly is power. We, as a community, young and old, have forgotten that changing the system, any system, begins with personal growth and transformation first and foremost.

"Health", in what I would say is it’s most complete sense, involves soundness of body and mind, and freedom from disease or abnormality. True client-centered health is intrinsically education-oriented, growth-oriented, and cost-effective. We have lost sight of this simple credo. And I would say that it is time to change. It is time to put the "client focus" back into client-centered care. There is a need for a health revolution. Cost, lack of evidence-based practices, and perhaps greatest of all, cultural change, are the issues that prevent a system of health from being sustainable and effective.

It can’t happen the way it is. We have a need for change, we have an economic demand for change, and yet we’ve seen incremental things placed into a system that is already dysfunctional. If the core elements of the system don’t work, incremental change isn’t going to make any difference! We’ve seen all of this in our recent health care reform debates. Everybody wants a little bit bigger piece of the pie. Everybody wants to do what is right for their agenda, and we’ve lost the consumer in the midst of that. But as I have always said, “if you do what you’ve done, you’ll get what you’ve got” – and guess what? We have a system that is broken in many, many places.

I would suggest to you, the listener, that a system of health needs to be seamless. It needs to be seamless along the continuum of health – from disease to the absence of disease. It needs to focus on the mechanisms of health and on optimizing human performance within all contexts of health. The things we’ve learned about human performance with athletes are applicable to those that we apply with geriatrics. A system of health needs to focus on mechanisms of health within that context. It needs to be truly, not just fake, but truly client-focused. It needs to be built on a foundation of learning and transformation at the level of the individual, so that we can then foster cultural change socially and politically.

I would suggest that we are in the Smart Life Revolution.

So with that said, a nice long lead-up into “what is the Smart Life Project”? What does it mean? How will it help to foster change? The Smart Life Project is a global movement to change the culture of health and to build a sustainable ecosystem to foster health. It is a global learning organization for profound health innovation and cultural change. The Smart Life Project will create global awareness of the root causes of the current economic, social, political, and clinical crisis that is our current system of health and healthcare. These issues don't just exist here. I think that the economics are certainly very significant in this country however issues related to a sustainable system of health – as opposed to healthcare – are an international concern.

The vision is a sustainable synergistic and seamless system of health for all with the learning based community ecosystem to support it. The Smart Life Project focuses on the seamless integration of self-care, client-centered, evidence-based strategies to create what I would consider a new system of health. It is a health initiative, first and foremost, that provides sports science solutions for training, rehab and life.

What that means is that the things that we have learned as far as the mechanisms of performance are applicable to all. They are not just applicable to the athlete. Cellular physiology applies to all of us. The mechanisms that foster change at the cellular level apply to all of us.

The Smart Life Project is an innovative, disruptive, and unique approach to healthcare and fitness in terms of delivery, model of human performance, and client focus.

In one way it goes back to, perhaps the basis of it, goes back to a quote that I once read by Clayton Christensen who said that “let patients do for themselves something that historically required the skill of professionals”. And I really think this is where we have made, or we have missed, some things in terms of our system of health. The vast majority of problems that we are going to have, or that we have, in terms of chronic medical conditions, #1 are responsive to self-care strategies – responsive to lifestyle changes, responsive to mentoring as opposed to fixing. Prevention of those problems is the same. Many of the problems that we see in terms of conditions that are not chronic, certainly in the orthopedic community – muscle strains and ankle sprains and things like that – are very responsive to self-care strategies. Perhaps the patient doesn’t know where to start and need a mentor to foster that learning. But if we use good learning plans and pathways and strategies, we can foster their understanding of the problem, of the mechanisms involved in the resolution and the prevention. That changes our focus in the system. It is driven around health.

The goal of the Smart Life Project is to bring this philosophy of what I would call “smart living strategies” to a broad range of populations by a variety of programs. Its goal is to teach people how to Live A Smart Life and to effectively build capacity for change, growth, and personal transformation.

There is one element of this – there are many elements of this that are different – however I think that one piece of this that will be significant in terms of perspective and perception is that the philosophy needs to be embodied as a shared vision of not only clients and athletes and general public but clinicians as well. They have to have a shared vision and a community ecosystem that will support this and would promote a synergistic mentoring relationship between client, clinician, and health mentor. Our role as clinicians will change. Our role as patients will change. And there will be a much more synergistic relationship between the two. It’s not about “fixing” as much as it is about “mentoring”. That’s not to say that “fixing” doesn’t exist, it means that the primary perception changes.

As I mentioned earlier, the Smart Life Project is about providing people with the tools to Live A Smart Life. I would say that Living A Smart Life is about lasting self-directed transformation. It is not just practices but it is principles. It's not just about changing your behaviors, or, excuse me, it’s not just about what you do or what you eat. That tends to be the place that everybody focuses on now: “you’ve got to eat this, you’ve got to do this”. There is no understanding as to why or how it fits. We need to look at changing behaviors, perceptions, and beliefs; changing the perceived role of the patient and the perceived role of the clinician. Instead of moving away from injury, the focus needs to be on moving towards health. It’s a slight shift, but a shift indeed. Instead of looking at things in terms of injury rehabilitation – rehabilitation have a kind of a negative connotation – maybe it should be about injury recovery, moving forward. It emphasizes capacity building on both a personal level and on a level that affects the whole system.

The Smart Life Project’s mission would be to not only establish and develop and provide these tools but also ecosystem in which to do so. And with this sort of system of health, you will see a profound disruptive health innovation and cultural change. Everything starts with learning and mentorship. The Smart Life Project will establish evidence-based competencies of self-care and learning pathways which involve a cultural shift: moving towards health instead of moving away from injury and disease. There will be a number of white papers including the Model for Human Performance, evidence-based cellular physiology, and EPIC solutions for health care reform that will serve as the philosophical foundation. Much of this material has already been released post-by-post on the website.

The mission as a whole is supported by three key mechanisms. Optimal human performance equates to optimal recovery and injury prevention. If we know how the human body functions on an optimal level, I would bet that those are the same mechanisms that we would use to not only recover from an injury should it occur, but those are the same mechanisms that we will use to prevent injury in the first place. In terms of the athlete, the things that they do in their training, optimally, should not be causing them to be injured unless something traumatic occurs or they fall off the trail or that sort of thing. These things should all be consistent because we are dealing with one set of mechanisms for human function. The Smart Life Project’s programs and products all focus on the elements of performance, prevention, and physiotherapy.

People that are a part of this community as such will have the ability to interact amongst other community members, other clinicians, in a dialogue that is much more mentoring and discussion than “fixing” and “being the guru”. The tools will connect competent self-care strategies, learning pathways which are individual, systems thinking, personal mastery, mentorship, evidence-based solutions, shared vision, community and activism. A system of health includes not only the mechanisms at play at the cellular level but mechanisms at play at the legislative level and the community level.

As it stands right now, there are three primary focus areas, as I mentioned earlier, within the Smart Life Project. That would be Smart Physio, which is geared toward physiotherapy and the injury recovery side; Smart Sport, which is related to performance and human performance optimization; and Smart Life, which looks primarily at prevention, injury prevention, healthy lifestyles, and provides a platform on which all the other things operate. Each focus area implements the Smart Life Project vision and mission via a variety of capacity building programs and content solutions in both individual and group contexts. As I said earlier, the Smart Life Project will create a global awareness of the root causes of the current economic, social, political, and clinical crisis that is our current system of health and health care. By applying principles of disruptive innovation, the Smart Life Project will create a sustainable system of health for all.

If you would like more information on the Smart Life Project or if you embrace a shared vision and would like to be involved in its efforts – as a clinician, as a patient - please contact me. The contact information is ab[at]allanbesselink[dot]com. Together we can change the health of the nation and of the world. I think that in some circles they call that one “big hairy audacious goal” but health is the basis by which everything functions and it deserves a “big hairy audacious goal”.

That actually brings us to the end – imagine that - of “Consumer Guide To Health”, the first episode of 2012, the first episode in quite some time, and glad to be back presenting the listeners with, hopefully, information that will change not only their health and fitness but how they perceive their health and fitness and the role that they have in their own health and fitness. I would like to thank the listeners for joining us today and we will be back in about, I suspect, four weeks. It looks like we will be on a monthly schedule and I'm certain that we will have some great interviews and topics of discussion coming up, much as we had before in the, I guess it's 36 episodes of “Consumer’s Guide To Health” prior to today. So today is maybe lucky number 37.

As we move forward in health and health care let us all remember the eloquent words of Albert Einstein who said “we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking that we used when we created them”. That would certainly be an elemental piece of the foundation for the Smart Life Project. I am your host Allan Besselink and you have listened to “Consumer’s Guide To Health”, a show produced by the Smart Life Project in Austin, Texas. For more information, you can find us on the web at www.allanbesselink.com/slp. This show is released under the Creative Commons license. The intro music was written by none other than your host and performed by myself and fellow Canadian musician Terry Baldwin - what seems like a long long long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Have a great Thursday, a great weekend, and join us for the next episode!

Photo credits: joehardy