In October 2021 Southern Cross University announced that it will offer a Master of Lifestyle Medicine degree from 2022, the only one of its kind in Australia.  

The launch of the new degree comes after the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry (RANZCP) issued new guidelines for the treatment of mood disorders, in which lifestyle interventions form the foundation of mood disorder management. The guidelines describe this approach as ‘essentially non-negotiable’, and the College now recommends this method as the first line of treatment, along with psychological interventions.

According to SCU’s Associate Professor Matthew Leach, a large percentage of chronic disease can be attributed to lifestyle or environmental factors and assisting individuals to support good health through lifestyle and non-pharmacological approaches remains an ongoing challenge for many health practitioners. Gaps in contemporary clinical education prevent many practitioners from confidently providing this care to their patients.

‘The course assists practitioners to more confidently prescribe lifestyle interventions and facilitate behaviour change in order to support the prevention and management of chronic disease and to improve patient outcomes,’ Prof Leach said.

‘The degree is taught by leaders in the field and uses an evidence-based approach to examine the principles and practices of lifestyle medicine, including determinants of health, clinical processes and models of care, and strategies and interventions for preventing and managing disease.” 

Leading experts were instrumental in the course design and curriculum development, including internationally renowned lifestyle medicine pioneers, Professor Garry Egger and Professor John Stevens.

‘Lifestyle Medicine is the most progressive movement in healthcare right now,’ Prof Stevens said. 

‘Today, 80% of patient consultations and moments of care are about lifestyle related disorders. On current trends, the future costs of health care related to preventable lifestyle illness is not sustainable by any government throughout the world. Integrating Lifestyle Medicine into existing practice provides exciting opportunities for clinicians, researchers and teachers who want to develop new knowledge and skills to become part of the solution.’  

An important component of the degree will be the incorporation of a capstone research project supervised by leading researchers in Lifestyle Medicine which will enable students to investigate an area of interest in depth and contribute knowledge to this important aspect of healthcare field.

The degree is designed for experienced health practitioners working in general medicine, allied health, nursing or other health disciplines, who wish to develop skills and knowledge in the specialised field of lifestyle medicine.

The course aligns with competencies of the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine and the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. The team has closely collaborated with ASLM to ensure this course provides a direct pathway into fellowship, for those who already hold a bachelor degree qualification in a relevant health discipline.

For more information visit the Southern Cross University website.