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“Exercise is Medicine” at UC San Diego!

Founded in 2007, “Exercise is Medicine (EIM)” is a global health initiative managed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association (AMA). Its purpose is to promote physical activity evaluation and promotion as a standard of healthcare. Furthermore, EIM encourages providers to offer patients feasible health care or community-based resources in support of physical activity goals.

This has never been more important, as nearly 80 percent of US adults do not the meet national exercise guidelines of 150 minutes/week of moderate physical activity. The EIM program trains health care providers how to discuss physical activity guidelines and offer EIM  materials and access to free exercise health coaching.

At UC San Diego Health, Sarah Linke, PhD, MPH, is an EIM champion.  Dr. Linke is an Associate Health Sciences Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health and an Advisor to the Institute for Public Health. Linke is the Principal Investigator of a 5-year career development award (K08) from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) focused onto integrating and evaluation EIM in the UC San Diego Health System’s primary care clinics. Locations include three family medicine clinics-- 4th & Lewis (Hillcrest), Scripps Ranch and Genesee and three internal medicine clinics-- 4th & Lewis (Hillcrest), Sorrento Valley and La Jolla. The program is being rolled out at one clinic approximately every 3 months.

The overarching goal is to implement exercise screening and counseling as a preventive measure to reduce morbidity, mortality and disease associated with inactivity. Preliminary and ongoing evaluation will be a key component. Dr. Linke is using a combination of implementation science and quality improvement models and methodologies to implement and comprehensively evaluate the program.

Although the key intervention – physical activity screening and promotion – sounds simple, the challenge is promoting highly consistent implementation and documentation in busy medical settings.  The Physical Activity Vital Sign (PAVS) questions ask patients at each visit, “On average, how many days per week do you engage in moderate to strenuous exercise like a brisk walk?” and “On average, how many minutes do you engage in exercise at this level?” Answers will be recorded in the health care system’s electronic medical record (EMR) system (Epic). Patients will be prescribed physical activity level recommendations based upon their answers. The long-term goal is for EIM to be integrated into the standardized primary care workflow. The UC San Diego Department of Family Medicine and Public Health also hopes to eventually implement EIM at the on-campus Student Health Services Clinic. The EIM Initiative will thereby allow UC San Diego students and staff, as well as the broad range of UC San Diego community patients, to become more cognizant of their physical activity lifestyle choices, and how to improve them in order to benefit many aspects of health and wellbeing.

More info on EIM:  https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/

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