Emma Etherington is shedding the weight of 2022 and welcoming the new year with a new lease on her health thanks to the team at the PAH’s Integrated Care Clinic (ICC). Emma’s success follows participating in the 12-week clinic based out of PAH’s Burke St Centre. The ICC model is centered around an integrated multidisciplinary team approach that is adaptable and respectful of each patient’s weight loss journey.
The clinic started in 2017 with the purpose of providing a holistic approach to the treatment of metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD). MAFLD affects an estimated 5.5 million Australians and 40% of all adults over the age of 50 years. The number of people affected by MAFLD are projected to increase significantly alongside the growing health burden related to liver complications and cardiovascular disease.
The main treatment for this disease is weight loss which Dr Alison Stewart, General Practitioner at ICC, says is often easier said than done.
“There are many difficulties that people face trying to lose weight in a sustainable way. This integrated approach is about getting a team of people from different areas of expertise coming together to create a plan that is centered around each individual patient’s needs to achieve their goals.”
The team consists of hepatologists, clinical nurses, a general practitioner, an exercise physiologist, psychologist, and dietitian. For Emma, having access to this team in a centralised support network has produced meaningful results.
“There were several times that I saw a doctor who has said lose weight but then goodbye, you’re on your own. The fact that each person here has taken the time to consider all the facets of my life that have been a struggle for me and understood that I’m a mum and have competing priorities, has been amazing. The team here have shown me that they want to support you, to create something that will help me achieve my goals and better health.”
Dr Stewart said that the success of the clinic comes down to understanding the barriers many patients face and providing personalised advice to assist with positive lifestyle behaviour change.
“Psychological support is a huge factor in patients being able to sustain the program and, having that on offer within the clinic alongside access to the whole team through their journey with little to no down time makes this experience gold class.
“Being able to monitor patients’ progress medically is also important and with the involvement of our consultants, a GP and nursing staff, we can assess their cardiovascular risks and see how they’re tracking with their liver disease.
“It is a model which suits not only MAFLD but potentially other highly prevalent and complex medical conditions.”
Equipped with the tools to manage her weight, and in-turn her MAFLD, Emma has been given the green light to exit the clinic and continue her journey in the community, with the support of her GP.
When asked how she felt about managing her condition and the rest of her journey Emma said, “I feel great. And I feel like I've got a long way to go. But I'm on the right track. I've signed up to a gym, this program has given me the confidence to do that and confidence in my ability to manage from here on out. It can be hard just to walk through the door, but I'm proud that I have achieved that.”