Family physicians see people daily who need to get more active and eat healthier in order to stop their health from continuing to spiral downward. Enter in Americans in Motion –Healthy Interventions (AIM-HI), an initiative developed by the Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). AIM-HI has a three-pronged approach that includes physical activity, nutrition and emotional well-being components and is deemed the “treatment of choice” in caring for patients that have chronic diseases. The goals of AIM-HI include to:
- Encourage family physicians to be fitness role models.
- Improve family physicians’ ability to positively affect the fitness of their patients.
- Enhance the awareness of the family physicians’ unique ability to promote fitness within their communities.
This program has been proven to be effective with patients. A three-year study using AIM-HI as the treatment of choice for treating and managing with chronic diseases yielded positive results, including,
- Decreased BMI and total body weight
- Increase in self-reported eating habits
- Improvement in fitness (as measured by a step test)
- Increase in self-reported exercise levels
Two strategies of AIM-HI that make it so effective is 1) getting the patients involved and 2) follow up. The family physicians are encouraged to use more patient-centered techniques, like motivational interviewing, to initiate the fitness/nutrition conversation. Additionally, it is recommended to work with the patients to help set small, yet realistic, goals in all three areas (fitness, nutrition and emotional well-being) that they felt confident about accomplishing. Since behavior change does not happen overnight and people’s desire to change tends to ebb and flow, the family physician should plan how and when s/he plans to evaluate the patient’s progress. The follow-up can be in a variety of methods, including an office visit, a phone call or even an email/text. The family physician can also choose to refer patients to s registered dietitian if the patient needs/desires more intensive counseling on nutrition.
Implementing AIM-HI is as simple as a click. Visit the Implement AIM-HI webpage and download the four components: AIM-HI Practice Manual, Practice Management Tools, Patient Handouts and Practical Tips handout. Additional AIM-HI resources, like the AIM-HI Food Journal, are available to assist in successfully implementing the program and can be ordered through AAFP.
In the time that we live in today where there are so many choices of medications and people are looking for a quick fix to an illness, it is refreshing to see that such programs as AIM-HI are available to health care professionals. This program will help family physicians and even other health professionals educate and empower patients to choose making healthy lifestyle changes as the best option for treatment versus just another pill.
Christine M. Cliff, MPH, RD LDN