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WWAD is re-imagining healthcare between doctors and communities outside clinic settings

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Walk with A Doc (WWAD) programme was recently launched in India. Rajashree Menon, Walk Leader, WWAD, in an interaction with Mansha Gagneja, talks more about the programme which may help many Indians commit to a healthy lifestyle.

The WWAD initiative was started in the US. How well has it fared and what made you believe that it would be successful in India?

This walking movement which has been pioneered by Dr David Sabgir, a Mount Carmel Cardiologist from Ohio has its roots in his learnings from observing patients in his clinic for over a decade. As a cardiologist, he thought he was doing everything he could to help his patients. He spent extra time during appointments, listening to their issues and giving advice on how to live a healthier life. But in his own words “In the end, I just wasn’t successful at encouraging them to get out there and get physically active.”

The scenario in India is grim with heart disease and stroke being the leading killers2 and cardiologists and diabetologists facing similar challenge of motivating their patients to inculcate some form of exercise in their daily lives. Walk with a Doc has already helped thousands commit to a healthy lifestyle in the US and we wish to make this programme help many Indians commit to a healthy lifestyle under the able guidance of physicians here.

I approached Vishal Gondal, Founder, GoQii and pitched the idea of WWAD to him. The concept resonated with him; recognising the merit and synergy of GoQii & WWAD missions, he extended his team’s full support to make WWAD initiative in India a success.

GoQii team got into action and the maiden walk was formalised with Dr Aashish Contractor, a cardiac rehabilitation expert and Head of Department-Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, after a series of interactions. Dr Contractor loved the idea and decided to do the maiden walk on June 18, 2017. With more like minded doctors joining the movement in the coming months, WWAD hopes to help patients and their families inculcate walking into their daily lives and reap the benefits of this simple very do-able action.

Could you throw light on the initiative and how it can assist managing the sedentary lifestyle?

WWAD is working towards reimagining healthcare between doctors and communities outside the clinic settings. Our mission is to encourage healthy physical activity in people of all ages, and reverse the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, which will improve the health and well-being of the country. It is a unique, physican-led walking programme focussed on encouraging physical activity among patients. Each free local walk is hosted by a physician so that in addition to the health benefits everyone enjoys just by walking, they get the chance to talk with their patients while they walk. The walk starts with a brief talk on a health topic of interest (8-10 minutes), followed by walking (30-45 minutes) and a summing up for five minutes and announcement of next date for the walk. Walkers have the opportunity to interact with the physician throughout the walk to ask questions and simply walk with them. The walk setting can be a community park, a promenade like Marine Drive in Mumbai or even an expansive shopping mall. These informal interactions help to empower the patient and makes them more aware of their disorders and means of managing it more effectively.

The metrics of WWAD are quite impressive. WWAD 2015 results conducted through survey amongst their walkers/ participants point out the following facts:

  • 79.4 per cent of walkers get more exercise since starting WWAD
  • 92.4 per cent of walkers felt more educated since starting WWAD
  • 78.8 per cent of walkers feel more empowered in their interactions with healthcare providers
  • 97.5 per cent of walkers enjoy the refreshing concept of pairing the physicians with communities outside the traditional setting.

What are the other initiatives or learnings from various other countries?

Apart from the US, WWAD programme has been adopted by six other countries including Canada, Russia, Australia, Ireland, South Korea and Spain. India will be the seventh country to adopt WWAD programme. The programme is at its infancy in these countries; so we will have to wait for the learnings; but we believe it will be similar to the learnings from the US as enumerated above.

WWAD has given rise to other programmes like Play With A doc where paediatricians encourage adolescent children with obesity to include exercise into their daily lives by playing a sport – baseball, football with them. WWAD is being adopted by paediatricians in the original avatar as well wherein they walk with children and adolescents to motivate them for including daily walking into their lives to keep childhood obesity away.

1. American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations for physical activity in Adults
2. Medical Certification of Cause of Death (MCCD) report, 2014

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