Bellevue Becomes First Public Hospital In U.S. To Focus On Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine

January 17, 2019

The Western medical system, as we all know, is not focused on preventative medicine. Go to any hospital or a doctor’s office, and it’s clear that the focus is on fixing after a person is already sick and not educating patients to prevent or reverse chronic disease. As a result, many people either don’t know that they can heal certain conditions with lifestyle changes. Expensive drug treatments are used in spite of the risk of side effects and steep costs.

The leading causes of death in this country, such as heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and certain forms of cancer, are all related to lifestyle. Of course genes play a role as well, but studies have shown that 80% of chronic disease in this country can be solved by making changes to your diet and going plant-based. That is massive!

Dr. Michelle McMacken, a board-certified internal medicine physician at Bellevue Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in NYC, notes that she has seen first hand how many patients were able to reduce the amount of drugs or even completely eliminate them through shifting to a plant-based diet. Dr. Michael Greger, a prolific YouTuber of Nutrition Facts (400,000 subscribers and counting) as well as a New York Times bestselling author, is another advocate of lifestyle change over drugs. His book How Not To Die reveals how the risks of leading causes of death in the U.S. can be reduced via simple lifestyle changes.

Together with Drs. McMacken and Gregor, Bellevue Hospital in NYC is launching the first ever plant-based lifestyle medicine program in a public hospital in January 2019. This is revolutionary on many levels: for one, it means that a hospital is taking the route of prevention and education over pharmaceuticals and surgery. It’s taking the route of long-term investment into habit change versus short term fixes. The other revolutionary piece about this program is that it’s happening in a public hospital (it’s in fact the oldest public hospital in the U.S. established in 1736). The patients that come through the doors at Bellevue are as diverse as could be: all different ages, genders, nationalities and ethnic backgrounds.

The program also breaks new ground because  it’s supported by local government officials, notably the Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who himself went through a transformative health journey by going plant-based a few years ago. Having government officials support such efforts, that ultimately will benefit the broader community, is a step that proves that health is not only a personal matter anymore but a collective one. 

The $400,000 pilot program is a huge move towards the right direction. It will be run by Dr. McMacken, who was recently featured in What the Health documentary, as well as 3 other MDs, a nutritionist, and a health coach. The goal in the first year is to support 100 patients, and the waitlist already far exceeds this number. If this program works at one public hospital in NYC, it can work at any public hospital in the country. Around the world, there is a beginning of a movement for holistic treatment that used to be dismissed and scorned by medical doctors: the Barnard Medical Center in Washington D.C. became the first all-vegan clinic in the U.S. when in opened in 2016 (after all, does it really make sense to feed meat to patients sick with heart disease?). There’s even a hospital built like a cabin in a forest outside of Oslo, Norway (to harness the healing power of nature). The pilot programs like Bellevue’s can help to change mindsets, save lives and ultimately a lot of money as well. The future of healthcare doesn’t start at the hospital—but on your plate.

Also by Isabelle: 5 Ways To Eat Plant-Based On A Budget, Save $$$$ And Become Healthier

Oil-Free Vegan Buckwheat Date Granola

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Photo: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

​Isabelle grew up in Luxembourg and transitioned from an omnivore, cheese loving life to a plant-based diet after she finished her master's in urban studies in Paris and moved to NYC in January 2013. Her decision was triggered by environmental, ethical as well as health reasons. She is passionate about veganism and health and has a plant-based nutrition certificate from e-Cornell. The Plantiful is her blog and creative outlet that she uses to share her love for all things plant-based. Isabelle is also a health coach and a certified yoga teacher with focus on restorative.


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